My preview at the end of yesterday’s post may send some of you running…certainly DSD fans. After all, how could abandoning DSD help the desperate situation that “high-res music” finds itself in? There are several reasons why the record business and its “high-res” initiative will benefit by ignoring DSD.
The first is to narrow the marketing focus on a single message around a single format. And that format is PCM digital. It’s already the de facto standard in the world. Every commercial recording studio uses either analog tape or a PCM-based Digital Audio Workstation…even those DSD equipped rooms record to DXD, which is PCM. Of course, there are esoteric record labels, devoted engineers and producers, consumer electronics hardware companies, activist editors/writers, and thousands of audiophiles that believe in the format, but the rest of the commercial music world isn’t paying any attention to DSD.
I recognize that Sony, the company most active in pushing high-resolution audio, has considerable focus on DSD. But even they understand that DSD is a sideshow compared to the clout of PCM. As music distribution steers away from physical media and downloads in favor of streaming, DSD is not going to be a factor.
If one of the goals of the industry’s marketing effort is to bring “high-res” music to the masses (which will never happen…the masses just don’t care), then they need to adopt a single messaging strategy. But my experience with these groups and organizations has shown me that simplicity and focus are not in their best interest or the interests of their member companies. The organizations are in a very tough spot. They don’t want to alienate any of their members. Therefore, everyone that wants to be under the “high-res” tent is assured a spot. But this dilutes the strength of their message.
Sometimes it’s better to make a stand and hold to a set of convictions. There will certainly companies left behind and disappointed that they can’t take advantage of the “hi-res” music initiative but it’s a simple fact that not everything ever recorded is a high-resolution recording. There needs to be meaningful definitions and specifications applied to audio fidelity just like they are in the world of digital televisions. We have standard-definition, high-definition, and now ultra high-definition. Each of these levels is well defined. Unfortunately, everything except the standard-resolution PCM digital recording produced in the late 80s can be regarded as “high-res” under the current definition.
The practical reality is David Pogue, Ryan Nakashimi (AP), Mario Aguilar (Gizmodo), and other mainstream writers that have been critical of “high-res” music have never mentioned DSD. They’re not even aware that it exists…outside of the audiophile community, DSD elicits a blank stare. I ran into a very prominent professional drummer at the lunch check out line today and got chatting with him. This is a guy that just finished touring with Miley Cyrus (boy, I never thought I would mention her in one of my posts) and guys from Mars Volta…he’d never heard of DSD.
DSD is nothing more than a sidebar in music production and distribution…a very small sidebar. The promotion of high-res audio/music would be best served if the interested parties focused on high-res PCM and never mentioned DSD.
Keep the “high-res” message simple, focused, and avoid hyperbole. People can understand getting the very best rendition of their favorite music.
Part 6: Engage with personalities that know the subject area and avoid aging rock icons in the promotion of “high-res” music.