It took a day but I’m back in the groove following the weekend in Chicago at the AXPONA 2015 audio show. The equipment is on its way back to opposite coasts and my suitcases are unpacked. And I’ve signed a contract for the same demo room for next year’s show, which will take place on from April 15 – 17 at the Westin O’Hare. I’ll be reaching out to the same partners and see if we can’t repeat the success of this year. Make your plans now because AIX Records doesn’t set up a demo system at any of the other shows we attend.
I thought I would share a couple of additional takeaways from the recent show. The first is the positioning of DSD and all things 1-bit within the seminar schedule and on a more personal basis. On Friday, Ted Brady and Jared Sacks held a seminar called “DSD and beyond”, which was described on the seminar website page as:
“The last three years has seen a dramatic increase in the use of DACs for consumers. Especially for the conversion of recordings made in DSD, DXD, or analog transfers. The word ‘Beyond’ means that the development has not stopped as we are now able to record and playback in DSD 128fs and 256fs stereo and multichannel.”
First, DXD has nothing to do with DSD. In fact, it’s PCM at excessively high rates without the low-pass filtering…you get all of the noise at even higher frequencies. And when they say “we are now able to record and playback” in the multi-rate DSD formats should be taken with a large grain of salt. Just because “we can” doesn’t mean that “we do”. Very few record labels…even those that profess to prefer DSD…actually make their recordings using that technology.
There wasn’t an equivalent session focused on PCM, which is a far superior method of capturing and reproducing music. Why not? Shouldn’t equal time be given to the dominant digital format in the world…the one that is used in virtually every professional (and even bedroom) studio? Yes, there was a seminar called, “Everything You Need to Know about High Resolution Audio”. I was a member of the panel along with Jared Sacks of Channel Classics and Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds and SuperHiRez.com, both of whom are strong advocates for DSD. I was the only presenter on any AXPONA seminar standing up for high-resolution PCM. After having given the keynote address for the past 6 years, I had to schedule my own “special event” in my own demo room to get any traction. Thankfully, I got lots of traction. The “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” sessions attracted standing room only crowds on both Friday and Saturday…I would guess that more people attended my special event than came to the “High-Resolution” seminar. I will definitely be repeating those sessions again next year.
A few visitors to our demo room expressed a preference for DSD and SACDs over traditional CDs and even high-resolution PCM. I sat them down in the sweet spot in our room and asked them what they thought of DSD vs. PCM following a dose of real HD-Audio. I must say I was impressed that they were honest enough to admit that PCM sounded superior. That’s not the first time that someone has flipped when confronted with recordings made with fidelity in mind from the start of the production process. DSD is not used for very many recordings because it cannot be used in its native format during the postproduction phases.
And then there was the seminar that followed the panel on high-resolution audio called “Discover the Reel Truth” moderated by Myles B. Astor, PhD. I met Computer Audiophile’s Chris Connaker in the hall on Sunday and he told me that my head would have exploded at what was being pulled over on the attendees of this seminar. The description from the webpage says it all, “Audiophiles seeking the Holy Grail, the ne plus ultra of sound, need look no further than 15-ips/2-track reel-to-reel tape. These 21st century, real time duplicated, second or third generation [tapes], simply are as close as one can get to the original recordings.” It wasn’t a joke…these people either can’t read specification sheets or have never bothered to listen to real high-resolution audio. Second or third generation tapes of original recordings? Give me great quality transfers to high-resolution PCM digital files and forget losing fidelity through another generation. Save costs, complexity, and arrive at better sound with high-resolution PCM. Wow.
A few people have asked about the cables in our demo room. One individual came up to me and was proud to say that he acquired 3 power cords for only $70 each. I suggested he might want to return them because they won’t improve the fidelity of his system. I pointed out to him that the power cords in the Lakeshore B room were standard issue IEC cables. The only unique thing about them was the locking mechanism used to securely attach them to the chassis of the amplifiers. The DH Labs people did supply some very good interconnects but they weren’t crazy expensive.
I look forward to doing even better at next year’s AXPONA. I’ll have the new 2015 edition of the sampler finished and bring along some A | B comparisons to illustrate the differences between stereo and surround, compressed vs. uncompressed music, and native high-resolution vs. analog tape.