Sony is only one consumer electronics company playing in the high-resolution audio marketplace but they are leading the pack when it comes to product categories and promotional initiatives. The company announced a collaborative effort with Best Buy’s Magnolia Design Centers to bring Hi-Res Music Stations to more than 70 locations nationwide this coming fall. Bravo to Sony and Magnolia Design Centers for bringing hi-res audio to a location where everyday consumers can get a chance to experience it.
The press release states:
“Customers will experience high-resolution music on a number of Sony audio products that meet nearly every lifestyle need, including Walkman portable players, headphone amplifiers and music servers. Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group support the program and the display will promote a variety of high-res recordings that are available via participating digital music providers.”
As wonderful as it sounds, there are some major pitfalls that could derail or at least diminish the effectiveness of the effort. I remember seeing demonstration systems placed in Virgin Records stores 15 years ago when DVD-Audio was first launched. Customers were given the opportunity to “experience high-res” through a POP display. However, customers either couldn’t hear the difference or the system wasn’t capable of producing any differences that may have existed. I can remember visiting the Virgin Megastore in Time Square and finding the DVD-Audio kiosk pushed way back in the corner of the sales floor and the discs being offered at blowout prices.
BenQ, the maker of the small Trevolo electrostatic wireless speaker system, contacted me about 6 weeks ago to inquire about licensing some AIX Records high-resolution audio tracks. Bob told me that the engineers “tuning” the speakers used my recordings exclusively. My real high-resolution tracks made the Trevolo speakers sound better than anything else they tried. Their 60 POP displays offer potential customers the chance to listen to four of my tracks and one licensed directly from an artist. I’ve done license deals with Bose, Intel, Microsoft, Creative Labs, and others because a real high-resolution music track produces a sound that few music fans have experienced.
The press release goes on:
“Each Hi-Res Music Station will include a variety of clips from both new and classic recordings across every genre, in addition to offering information on accessing hi-res digital files from participating music providers.”
Visitors to the Magnolia Design Centers will not have the opportunity to hear “drop your jaw” quality audio. They will hear familiar “high-res music” from the major labels. The tracks will conform to the “better than CD” definition (the high-res music standard), be heavily compressed, lack extended frequency response, and otherwise be unable to meet the real potential of the high-resolution audio requirements. It’s almost as if I went across the street to the Ferrari repair shop and asked for a test drive only to find out that they’ve filled the tank with low octane fuel.
I was in touch with a couple of people from Best Buy a couple of years ago. I even visited one of the design centers in San Francisco to check out their demo capabilities. The head sales guy didn’t know how to operate their best demo room and finally gave up after a few minutes.
The press announcement also said that select stores will “host parties and receptions”.
Wouldn’t it be great if I got involved with presentations similar to the ones I did in Chicago at the AXPONA show or during the sessions here at AIX. I would love to be the “high-res music” spokesperson for Magnolia. Maybe then customers would get the facts, hear incredible recordings made in real high-res, and reach into their pockets to purchase some of the gear on display.
Here are a few comments that I’ve received from people that have downloaded my free hi-res sample files or have heard one of my demos. This is what Sony and Magnolia wants to hear from visitors to the demos…but probably won’t with the same old high-resolution transfers provided by the major labels. Sure they have to play a variety of popular, commercial tracks but not including some “audiophile” tracks would be a mistake.
“These files are amazing and truly do sound like live music. To think I’ve been spending so much time, energy and money on a tweaked dedicated music server and anti-vibration devices including feet under my Lexicon RV 8 receiver to find out it was the files that were inferior.”
“Hi Mark, I just downloaded Nitty Gritty and I am simply amazed. In the past my purchases have been based simply on content, you have turned my thinking to also consider the format/method. Never would I ever imagine enjoying listening to anything other than Jazz, R&B, Classical and the like as much as I am enjoying this recording. Regards, Harvey”
“I want to thank you for the most memorable musical experience that I have ever heard at the recent Axpona show. To enjoy and appreciate your superb recordings, in the proper room, with extraordinary speakers and components, (which can do them justice) was beyond my expectations. David”