Sony & Magnolia to Promote Hi-Res Audio

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”


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.

4 thoughts on “Sony & Magnolia to Promote Hi-Res Audio

  • Hi

    Thanks for all the effort in promoting HD sound for everyone’s benefit.

    I really cringe when I hear a good artist performance ruined by a poor recording.

    I cannot wait when good sound becomes a privilege or a basic human right we all can enjoy.

    Cape Town
    South Africa

    • Thanks…the music industry in a business and the variation of recording quality is unfortunately just part of it. Organizations try to establish standards and procedures but it really is up to the artist and producer to create what they think is the best.

  • I wish Sony – Magnolia – Best Buy the best of luck, they face a tough road. At least at the Hi Fi shows you do the customers are mostly audiophiles with some experience at critical listening. Magnolia’s audience will be mostly average Joe’s. They’ll need to use recordings done well enough to be able to expose the power of true Hi Rez playback, very hard to come by with the releases of todays popular artists/music.
    If Sony really wants to promote Hi Res audio they need to start MAKING IT. They have the power to lean on their labels artists and recording techs to start using hi def digital recording equipment, cut back on the loudness wars compression and just generally improve the sound quality of their music catalog.
    If they keep putting low octane fuel in their high end sound hardware it’s still gonna sound like “made for MP3” stuff and be hard to sell those big dollar HDA servers, etc.
    Let the new James Taylor release lead the way for how to record popular music today.
    BTW, don’t forget the followup post on his album you promised us Wed. 😉

    • I’ll follow up on the JT post…I’m waiting on the answers to questions that I asked of the producer.


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