Dr. AIX's POSTS — 02 September 2015

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My crowd source campaign is edging nearer. I’m in the midst of preparing email lists, editing the prelaunch 30″ video, doing motion graphics for the pitch piece, and making sure the message is consistent and uniform. When I started imaging what to provide on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, I knew that I would have to include a bunch of my high-resolution audio tracks. That’s easy. But what else would draw curious audio enthusiasts to the disc accompanying “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound”? That’s when I thought that including a few comparisons would be compelling.

I find it difficult to accept that a listener would be able to clearly perceive a difference in fidelity between two different cables, formats, sample rates, word length, power cords, or whatever if they were not able to instantly switch between the things being compared. Does anyone really believe that having a 30-60″ (optimally…it could be a lot more) gap between the playback of configuration 1 and configuration 2 is tenable? There are just too many variables to consider in doing a comparison this way. Is your head in exactly the same place, are you in the same spot in the song, and is your frame of mind the same?

Having a completely equipped professional studio makes doing comparisons much easier. I can stream digital data from a single source or two identical digital players and route them to a couple of inputs on my control room monitor system or a couple of input channels. Then it’s very simple to hit a noiseless button to choose one or the other source. This is how I do my comparisons. I’m listening along and simply switch back and forth between the options. Depending on what’s being compared…sometimes I hear a change and sometimes I don’t.

Under most circumstances this ability to switch quickly and without any noise or level drop is difficult. I remember assisting with the research study just before the Christmas holiday last year. I had everything set up in my laptop DAW to switch between the lo-res and high-res files…instantly and on command. But they organization balked at compensating me for the project so they reverted to playing the files in sequence. It contributed to the results being meaningless…the participants rated the MP3s as the best sounding as often as the actual high-res files.

The Blu-ray disc format provides a unique capability. It is possible to have high-resolution PCM files on multiple audio “tracks” and then switch between them by pressing the AUDIO button the remote. I use this capability to allow customers to switch between the three different mixes available on my Blu-ray discs. As most of you know, my releases have a traditional 2.0 stereo mix and two different 5.1 surround mixes called “stage” and “audience”.

What if instead of different mixes, I place different formats on each of the available audio tracks. Users could use the AUDIO button and instantly compare a 256 kbps MP3 file against a CD res file, and a true high-resolution file. I’m planning on using the same technique to compare a heavily mastered file vs. an unmastered file. Don’t take my word for it. Listen for yourself and see if you and your system can hear any differences between these comparisons.

Then Frank from an audiophile society back east wrote to say that the members of his group wouldn’t be interested in a Blu-ray disc because they don’t have a Blu-ray player in their main music room. He mentioned maybe 5 out of 60 members might be properly equipped to take advantage of the “Music and Audio” A User Guide to Better Sound” Blu-ray disc. I don’t want my target audience to miss out on this opportunity. What can I do? I’m happy to allow customers or supporters to download the files but they wouldn’t have the ability to do an instant comparison.

So I’m curious how many of you would be able to play a Blu-ray disc in the proper environment?

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I keep trying to improve the landing page for the approaching Kickstarter campaign at “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound“. There are a few videos of me giving the keynote address at the recent Newport Show. Please add your name to the list. So far I’m just shy of 200…I’d love to get to 500 or more by the end of the weekend. Thanks.

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About Author

Dr. AIX

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.

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