AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 26 April 2015


Participating in a trade show can be grueling. Yesterday, the second day of the AXPONA 2015 audio show was a long one…but ultimately very gratifying as well. We stopped for big breakfast on the way to the Westin with an additional stop at the Walgreens to pick up a couple of packages of wall hooks to mount the AIX Records sign outside of the Lakeshore B Ballroom. I was hoping that it would help the guys from the magazines find us. No such luck.

Why should I care about getting some of the well-known writers to come by and experience the room? Because they might discover the truly amazing sound that AIX, Benchmark, Oppo, and Revel have been able to achieve for attendees of the show…and write something will find a larger audience. Audiophiles and music lovers…their readership…deserve to know about what happened in the Lakeshore B ballroom.

The power, clarity, dynamic range and efficiency of the Benchmark AHB2 power amps driving the 5 Revel Salon 2 speakers is so stunning that I spent a fair amount of time sitting in the sweet spot late yesterday afternoon listening to long stretches of my own tracks. It’s that good. Everyone that has experienced one of my demo systems commented, “This is the best room you’ve ever pulled together.” And I have to agree.

There was Dave, a passionate 2-channel lover that I met during a stint at the sales table outside the room. He wanted to make sure that the discs on the table contained stereo mixes. He explained that he preferred stereo to surround. That’s when I inquired whether he had been in the demo room or not. He hadn’t. I practically dragged him to the center of the assembled group of chairs and proceeded to play a string of music tracks in both stereo and surround (the aggressive “stage” perspective mixes). It was almost a religious experience…I think I know what a faith healer must feel like. Dave was a changed man. He came up to me after the playback and said, “You’ve just cost me a lot of money!” I saw Dave later that afternoon and he still had the spirit of surround humming through his body.

Then there was the assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, another David. He sat through several of the demo tracks including a bunch of classical selections. I played the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, the Haydn Piano Trio, and a Vivaldi Senoia in both stereo and surround. We chatted at the sales table and then he handed me his card (I couldn’t help but notice his job title and email address… We shook hands and he left me with, “I’m so glad that I found you.”

My energy reserves were falling fast as 6 pm rolled around. I actually told Mona, “I’m kind of hoping that no one shows up for the second iteration of my “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” session. After an 8-hour day of standing in the room providing discussion and demos, I was naturally feeling a little tired. My wish was not granted. The room started filling up just after 6 pm and by the time John, Gary, and a couple of very helpful attendees had wrangled a few additional stacks of chairs from the store room behind the ballroom, there were over 60 people fully engaged for almost 2 hours.

Any fatigue quickly faded away. I enjoy being an advocate for high-resolution audio and once again I talked about provenance, recording production, formats, and potential fidelity vs. actual fidelity. And once again, I probably didn’t spend enough time playing music. However, I did cap the evening with one of my finest recordings and left the group utterly astonished. It was a wonderful session followed by 30 minutes of mayhem at the sales table. My lovely wife handled the crush of sales gracefully before we went for dinner once again at the Benchmark restaurant.

It was another successful day. The only glitch was discovering that John had failed to return the key to the room. He was at the airport when I reached him. If that’s the worst that happens, we’ll all be happy.

More than a few people, including another audio engineer, encouraged me to keep fighting the good fight. One whispered in my ear, “Please don’t give up!” I assured him that I won’t.

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About Author


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 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.

(34) Readers Comments

  1. Great article. Next time you are at an audio show, you might want to set up a room without the video aspect and then you should attract a larger crownd of audiophiles and magazine reviewers.. Just a thought as I did the same thig thing a few years ago and walked away from the room when I saw the video aspect, not knowing you as I now appreciate your blogs.

    • That might work but one of my partners and close friend is the JVC rep. I get mixed messages…some people love the video and others don’t even make it into the room.

  2. Its great that you are spreading the 5.1 HD surround concepts and ideas with real 5.1 surround. Until one has experienced it one has no idea how exciting and immersive it can be. Especially with your amazing system!
    I am a surround ONLY audiophile type with hundreds of items of 5.1 material, including your discs. So for what its worth I can EMPATHISE with your experience. Just sorry I cannot be there to hear your setup.

    • Howard, it was really great this year.

  3. The “mag rag” guys in “red dresses” need those shiny gadgets to pontificate over. Real audio substance and provenance. puts their normal “chirp” in harm’s way. You jepordized nothing Mark, keep up the good fight !

  4. Hi Mark,
    Sounds like an amazing demo room. I wish I could have been there to hear it in person. Maybe one of these years I’ll get out to AXPONA. What are the chances an assembly of such high quality hardware and content will happen again?

    That’s very troubling that well-known audiophile writers didn’t even stop by! From what I can gather, this type of configuration has never been put together and all the major audiophile magainzes should have at least sent a writer to evaluate the results and report back their opinions. Very sad…it just shows many of them have either egos or bias that prevent them from just taking in the musical experience and evaluating it for what it is. Strange…they must be clouded by their preconceptions of what audiophile quality music “should” and “shouldn’t be”. I may not always agree with your strict definition of HD audio, but there should have be no argument that matching both the highest possible fidelity source material with a superior chain of components would create a experience not to be missed. I can’t imagine a reason that anyone wouldn’t want to hear it in person!

    Despite this, I’m glad the show turned out well overall.

    • This was a really great show. I had many, many people come up to me and congratulate me on the whole experience.

  5. I’m also sad that none of the big audio reviewers visited your room. I guess you just need to spend lots of money advertising in their magazines and on their websites to get their attention.

    • Seems like that’s the case. Chris Connaker from CA was the only one that I saw and spoke to.

  6. Probably too late but search those writers out and invite the to the room and your presentation if you do one today. A writeup in the mags would be priceless and the need to be beat over the head with the realities of provenance.

  7. I am so proud of you Mark, and what you are doing!!!
    I read your emails every day, and it’s made a difference in my life, actually, I just wanted to thank you, for that!!!

    • Thanks.

  8. I agree with those people Dr. Aix, never give up !

  9. Oh! How I wish I could have been there. Just reading about it makes me tingle. You’re on a crusade (trailblazer ?) and it’s not easy but please don’t give up. PLEASE keep trying !
    I was hoping to hear you’re setup in Montréal but I guess AXPONA was too close logistic-wise. Hope to see you at the next Salon et images.

    • I only setup a system once in Montreal…it was great but won’t happen again. Too expensive.

  10. Mark, it is always a pleasure to see you and hear your demos. The sound in the room was sensational and for me the best of the show. I just wish I could have seen the seminar but dinner with my wife in town beckoned and I had to go they had to get to O’Hare to fly home. I hope to see you again at the Cap Fest. Have a safe trip back to CA!

    • Good to see you too, Joe. Thanks for coming by.

  11. Me alegro que todo vaya saliendo bien, ¡que envidia me da no poder estar allí y de disfrutar de su composición 5.1!.
    La tarea de convencer a los escépticos de del sonido multicanal es complicada. Ya ha visto como había personas que huían al veer una pantalla de video. ¿Ha entrado algún” fundamentalista del vinilo”?..

    • Gracias!

  12. Mark, do you have any idea why the writers did not stop by for a demo. I would have expected that at least a couple of them would have attended. If the show is discussed in any of the rags that I read, I will certainly write to tell them of the omission.

    • To be fair, it’s a very large show and these guys already know that I reject analog tape and vinyl LPs as being High-resolution…and I don’t advertise. From their perspective, why bother.

  13. Hey Mark,

    I really appeciate your and John’s effort to take multichannel audio to a completely new level; that’s pretty much the spirit that should be behind these shows – I’m also pretty sure you must habe enjoyed youselves a whole lot with the challenge of pulling off something completely unprecedented,, which is certainly another vital part of the spirit that should be behind shows like AXPONA. I’m only sad I couldn’t be there myself.

    The other sad part is that there was no coverage of your room, and I guess that says one or two things about the confused priorities of the audio and tech Press. I hope you had the time to get some pics of the setups and that we’ll get a glimpse of them despite the negligence of the audio press & magazines.

    Your effort was clearly not about cool looking gear to brag about trendy lifestyle choices, with fancy brands, adverts and misleading specs; it was about making a valid and necessary point regarding the shortcomings of consumer gear when it comes to reproducing real hd-audio, and to give those consumers the opportunity oi get a listen to real JAS compliant HRA. Among all the snake oil, false hype and deliberately misleading “facts” devoid of any respect for scientific accuracy and tol consumers, that’s an effort worth mentioning and covering, as well as acknowledging. My most sincere appreciation goes out to you guys, and once again, it’s just too bad I couldn’t attend the show and your talk – I’m pretty sure I’ll make it to the next opportunity.


    • Thanks…it was the best room I’ve every assembled. Thanks to all of the partners.

  14. I’m surprised there’s so little interest from the audiophile press. The problem of “provenance” or standard resolution in high bit-rate buckets is so widespread, and the definition of “high definition” so nebulous and so easily manipulated that you’d think Stereophile and Absolute Sound would be at least a little bit interested in a professional voice and perspective such as Mark’s. I’ve pretty much stopped buying anything from HDtracks and the like because I have no confidence that what I’ll get is any better than what I already have on CD. I think the problem here is the groups fleecing the sheep are the same ones buying the advertising. So, after a little reflection, maybe I’m not so surprised after all that they’re giving this issue a pass. It’s sad because people will figure it out eventually and then the audiophile press will have some ‘splainin’ to do.

  15. Thanks for the post Mark. Sounds like you had a great time and found a few more converts. Keep fighting the fight and well all be behind you. Take it easy.

    • That is a good point.
      I did not expect the ‘hardcore’ audiophile press to show up.
      But – as we see in the photo – Mark had a lot of visitors in the room.
      That is much more important.

  16. Next year have a Press Only hour, serve free food, wine and beer.
    You’ll pack the place with the greedy.

    • I did that last year. They showed up for the free beer and food and promptly left before the demo.

  17. The fact that the audiophile press doesn’t show up is one of the reasons I no longer take any of them seriously. You would think they would want to cover a great sounding system if they were “audiophiles” and were really seeking the best sound replication possible. It in audiophile press, ad revenue is king.

    • To be fair, it was a very big show and I should have sent out invitations to the press people…especially the people that I know. Still, I was disappointed. It would seem that they would make an effort to visit every one of the ballroom setups. There weren’t that many.

  18. My guess why the press wasn’t there was because the room was very hard to find. I stopped by there on Friday only because my buddy saw on the way out when he stopped by the marketplace. It literally was like a hidden cave…location location location.

    Also, I only went there because my buddy told me he finally found some Revel speakers. As an owner of Revel speakers, I went to the room to check out the 5 salon2s. Based on the room setup it was very difficult to discern what the point of the room was (room was very dark too)…but the salon2s did very nice.

    • I guess I hadn’t thought that the room was difficult to find. We we right outside of the Marketplace and had signage. You comments are worthwhile. There is a new requirement in Chicago that the lighting at the entry has to remain at 100% on…and therefore we placed banners new the doorway that blocked the initial view. We also had the light down to allow the video to look good. Thanks.

  19. It was a great demo room and the sound was excellent (as was your presentation). My home system has no room for an appropriate surround setup, so I must stick with stereo…but it is very nice to hear a properly set up surround system.

    • Thanks Jim!

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