I received a reply from Bob Katz regarding his position on being denied inclusion on HDtracks for some of his productions. Yesterday, I talked about the quality evaluations that HDtracks does to ensure that every track they offer meets their definition of “hi-res” music (they include transfers of older standard-res music from analog tape…I don’t). They verify that the files have 24 “active” bits. I’m not sure what this means when the recordings delivered to them use less than 16 bits of dynamic range…bit at least you’ll get all of the low level his and rumble.
They do three other checks, too. They check the frequency spectrum, they do a real-time frequency check, and they take a spectrogram of the tracks to see if there is “activity in the frequency ranges in decibels and map the dynamic range of the frequency responses”. This all sounds great but it doesn’t guarantee that the source tracks are high-res or not. It simply verifies that the tracks came from an analog source and was converted using a 96 kHz/24-bit ADC or better.
So why does Bob Katz refer to the HDtracks QA team as the “HRA Mafia”? This is what he wrote:
“Regarding HD tracks, there is no supersonic information in material which I master at a higher rate by upsampling it. So the ‘police’ would catch it! My argument is simply that the upsampled material, processed at the higher rate and then NOT downsampled and/or wordlength-reduced — sounds better in that way.
So the audience is missing out by having to listen to two “generations down” from my original master. Simply because they’re looking at an FFT instead of listening. It clearly sounds better for a few reasons:
1) The DACs sound better when they are not doing the upsampling themselves. Weiss Saracon is a MUCH better upsampler
2) Processing at a higher rate produces fewer aliasing and distortion products
3) It’s fewer ‘generations’ that the sound goes through
4) The sound goes through fewer sharp low pass filters
All you have to do is listen…it sounds warmer, wider, better for all of the above reasons.
Nevertheless, as I said in the interview, we can acknowledge that material which was ORIGINATED at the higher rate potentially sounds better than the material which I am mastering from the lower rate…but the listener and the producer and the artist should not be penalized by the mafia which just looks at the FFT with their eyes instead of listening with their ears.
In a perfect world, this material which I am discussing should have its own category…maybe not charge as much as the ‘officially higher res material’…
That’s my take on it!”
So there it is. Bob acknowledges that these particular productions were not recorded at high-res specs. However, he insists that by upconverting them and doing all of his mastering magic at the higher sample rate, the results are better than if he had maintained the original standard resolution rates. And I don’t doubt that the final files sound terrific.
But I agree with David Chesky. They don’t belong on a site that is claiming it only accepts and sells recordings that were captured on analog tape and then converted to high-res specs. I think PonoMusic would embrace the tracks.
The problem remains. We don’t have a uniform definition of what is and what isn’t a high-res track. And I seriously doubt that we ever will.