I feel bad that the audiophile press people didn’t make it to the Lakeshore B ballroom to experience what many called, “the best sound of the show” and “magnificent”. And it’s frustrating that they didn’t write about the fabulous real high-resolution, multichannel sound we delivered…a trade show first. I’ve searched the web and read the reports that have been written by writers from the big audio magazines Stereophile and The Absolute Sound…there’s no mention of AIX Records or our demo anywhere to be found. Even the usual small website bloggers and sites missed our room. I feel bad because the partners and I assembled an amazing sounding room. And they deserve to have some well-deserved press attention. Those who did come by (and often returned for more) heard the magic. They learned that it doesn’t take hundreds of thousands of dollars to deliver accurate, clear, rich, warm, and fully dynamic sound.
When I read the various authors proclaiming a room as “Best Sound” and saying it had “the most natural and realistic sound at the show”, I have to wonder what’s going on? How can an all-encompassing statement like that be justified when the author didn’t visit and evaluate all of the rooms? Skipping one of the biggest ballrooms at the entire event seems like more than a simple oversight. Why is it that every press person that made the effort to come to Chicago avoided our room?
Maybe it would be useful for those of you that heard the system to go to the TAS or Stereophile AXPONA write up pages and describe the sound and experience that we delivered. A campaign that would point out the myopic viewpoint of the major writers and magazines might be helpful…or piss them off. I routinely share my thoughts in a comment or two on those sites. You can read what I posted to one of Jason Victor Serinus’ posts by clicking here.
The “best sound” award from Jim Hannon of TAS went to the MBL system. I’ve experienced the MBL room with the omnidirectional speakers and expensive electronics and understand why they are perennial favorites. The sound is loud and enveloping. However, their approach to speaker design doesn’t work well for the kind of recording and mixing that I do. That was the problem that I had last year with the monumentally expensive German Physics speakers…great sound produced without direction doesn’t maintain directional information. A surround system (or stereo system) that sounds great no matter where you are in the listening space is not a system that can deliver a proper spatialized mix.
The front end of the MBL room used a UHA Phase 12 OPS analog tape machine. Given what we’ve learned from Fred Thal (guest posts of the past two days…click here to read Part I or here to read Part II) about the types of transports and associated critical components that make analog machines worthwhile, it strikes me as odd that a reviewer from TAS magazine elevates analog tape machines above well done high-resolution PCM digital…especially a reworked consumer deck. Jim wrote, “The MBL system (speakers and electronics) with a UHA Phase 12 OPS tape player and Synergistic Research cables and devices, was absolutely thrilling, with tremendous dynamic impact, presence, and detail.”
Dynamic impact? The dynamic range of a really great professional analog tape machine tops out at 10-12 bits of digital equivalence (without noise reduction), placing CDs well above the potential of analog tape. I cherish my Nagra IVs machine and look back fondly on my decades of using analog tape to record and reproduce music but things change. However, sadly some people and writers don’t.
Figure 1 – Mark Peabody working in his shop. Photo Credit BRENT LEWIS/RRSTAR.COM
I met a tech geek in the Marketplace of the AXPONA show. The vintage gear that he had spread around his sale area drew me in immediately. His name is Mark Peabody and he runs Sound Classic (website click here). We hit it off right away. Memories of the Teac auto reverse deck and a Pioneer analog machine as well as vintage receivers took me right back to my youth. We’ve been in touch via email. Mark came to one of my High-Resolution Audio Demystified sessions and was apparently impressed. He’s written an article that he is pitching to the editor of Mix magazine (a professional audio engineer’s trade publication with writers that know the world they write about) that includes a very telling few sentences. He wrote:
“I recently attended a seminar titled, “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” at AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) in Chicago where Dr. Mark Waldrep spoke about audio provenance, defining high-resolution audio and the challenges of producing great sounding recordings.
Waldrep recently upset some in the audio community by stating that digital now has the ability to sound better than vinyl. (Gasp…that’s heresy!) What did he expect? After all, audio is a religion. Maybe in 2000 years we will have the analogs and the digitals fighting each other for the right to teach their children about ‘The Beatles’. It could happen.
Guess what, he’s right!”
Here’s a guy that makes his living tweaking, repairing, and providing vintage audio equipment as props for movies and television productions but he’s honest and smart enough to know that vinyl LPs and analog tape are unable to match high-resolution PCM digital.
The reviewers at the major trade publications and the analog advocates around the web need to abandon their “my way or the highway” approach and open up to the realities of current technology…digital and state-of-the-art analog. It’s not only disappointing but also impossible for the “best sound” at AXPONA (or any other trade show) to be sourced from a restored and tweaked consumer analog tape machine. I can only imagine what the MBL room would have sounded like with a proper high-resolution PCM digital front end.