AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 25 April 2015

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What an incredible first day in Chicago at the AXPONA show. By the time, Mona and I got to the Lakeshore B Ballroom following a breakfast stop at a local iHOP, John had everything spiffed up and the room was ready for action. I spent the first 30 minutes getting the sales tables set up and the alternate OPPO-95 connected through another Benchmark DAC2 and a pair of OPPO PM-1 headphones. By 10 am visitors were circled around the table and making their way into the ballroom.

Because of the layout, anyone wanting to check out our room had to come in and walk down a short ramp to see what was going on. The sound drew them at least in the doorway. But I found it curious that many times attendees would make it this far and turn around and head back up the ramp. I think it’s the use of video. Having a large HD-Video projection system in the room shouts “home theater” to many audiophiles. They can’t imagine a room with a video screen and 5.1 surround sound system producing state-of-the-art sound so they head for the exit. I didn’t make it out of the room all day but I’m pretty sure that the other demonstration systems were comprised of 2-channel stereo setups with either turntables or music servers as sources. One person did tell me that they saw another room playing video but the content was a movie soundtrack.

For those that entered the darkened room and found their way to one of the 25ish seats positioned in the middle of the 30-foot diameter circle of speakers, the payoff was sublime audio. I mean it. My friend Kevin at Harman that was so sure that the Revel Salon 2 speakers would knock me out that he made them appear in Chicago for us. They did. These speakers have the specifications to match the JAS “high-resolution audio” standards and the musicality to bring forth the clarity and intimacy of my crystal clear recordings. Last year, I struggled with the setup. We had speakers that weren’t identical and my partner inserted low fidelity DBX processor (converting the audio to 48 kHz to do room alignment) between the output of the Bryston SP-3 processor and the amplifiers. Bad idea.

Believe it or not, the system in the Lakeshore B Ballroom was delivering amazing sound without any intervening room adjustment processing. I didn’t have any equalizers (analog or digital) between the outputs of the Benchmark DAC2s and the inputs to their AHB2 amplifiers…and things sounded better than any room I’ve ever put together.

Early in the morning, a young man sat near the center position as I played a variety of my tracks. He sat quietly and was obviously enjoying the sound and the music. And then he left. He returned in the middle of the afternoon and once again sat down for another 15-20 minutes. A discussion opened up between a few of the attendees about sound and high-resolution etc. The young man said, “I was here earlier this morning and have spent the last three hours visiting a bunch of the other rooms. I can tell you that no other room comes close to delivering sound as good as this room. I just had to come back and experience it again!”

He wasn’t alone in his praise of the AIX Records room. I had more than a few others come up to me privately and say pretty much the same thing. Obviously, that’s the goal…to demonstrate something unique and compelling. And hearing the very positive feedback is very gratifying. I was disappointed that none of the audiophile press stopped by. Maybe today.

After the show ended at 6 pm, I held a 90-minute version of my “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” session in the room. I expected a few curious attendees to fill the seats prior to the 8 pm Patricia Barber show, but was knocked out when we packed the room with over 50 people. John and Gary had to keep pulling chairs from the adjacent VIP room. Readers of this blog will know what I talked about…that we need to be vigilant about provenance and insist that providers of music honestly relate what they are selling. And I played a number of demos…including the Beatles “Love” DVD-A and Tom Petty’s “Hypnotic Eye”.

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Figure 1 – The view from the back of the Patricia Barber concert.

The session ended at around 7:30 pm. Everyone flooded the sales table, purchased some discs, and then headed down the hall to the concert venue. Patricia Barber and her band were quite good. However, the sound system was not great and there were no seats in the room. After 10 hours of standing, I had to sit down.

The evening ended with dinner at the Benchmark restaurant (inside the Westin) with Bob Hodas (room tuning guru), Gary from JVC and John. It was a long but very satisfying day.

Today’s another day.

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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.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Thanks, Mark. I am a regular reader and stopped by your room about 5 times yesterday. I’m the guy with the limp. The sound in the room was really great. My brother-in-law made the observation as we went through the other floors of the Westin that he was surprised by the bad choices of listening music so many of the exhibitors used. Lots of early 70s rock at “Hi Res”, aka CD rips in big bit buckets! The MBL room was one of the best, along with the smaller Martin Logans. They had $1,000/pair mini Martin Logans with a $1,500 subwoofer (JL labs) and an integrated amp (Parasound) for $1,000. But, the real surprise: Vanatoo mini monitors. $500/pair for small self-powered 2-ways with a passive radiator and DSP processing. They said you could pair it with the $130 Martin Logan sub. 2 big takeaways: focus on the quality of the music and you don’t need to spend a ton of money to get a good 5.1 system for immersive audio. Thanks.

    • Thanks for coming by. You’re right…it doesn’t take a lot of money and crazy equipment to get great sound.

  2. Congratulations and job well done! It’s funny you mentioned Kevin from Harman as I was introduced to him at CES and as we were talking, he mentioned to me that I should check out your blog! I am so glad he did.

    Best….Carlo.

  3. Mark, it would be great if you’d film a segment of your demo at AXPONA and enter it in YOUTUBE, to include a link to the video on your next blog, thus those of us which are enjoying reading your accounts of the events and are not fortunate to be there in person, may in addition of imaging how it is, hear and see it as well.

    • This is a challenge since my wife is using my cellphone to do the credit card swiping. I’ll document the room with some additional photos.

  4. Do you know the Blu-ray-audio “Modern Cool” Patricia barber ?, sounds pretty good ….

    • It’s excellent.

  5. Thanks for several fine posts, Mark.
    I feel you have an approach to high-end audio that scientists in the field will approve.

    Revel and Benchmark is a winning combination: Their performance (confer their specifications & measurements) speaks for themselves. John Siau (VP & Director at Benchmark) deserves a lot of praise: His “white papers” on their site are great, and he is an important contributer to Benchmark’s success. If I had been an employee of Benchmark or Revel, I would have been very proud (but as a person not in the audio-business, I am just proud of owning Revel speakers and a Benchmark DAC). I also want to salute Rory Rall who is Sales Manager of Benchmark. He has answered my questions on their products in an exemplary way.

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