AUDIO SHOWS Dr. AIX's POSTS — 18 April 2016


I’m back at my desk in Los Angeles after a very enjoyable weekend in Chicago. It’s grueling to setup a state-of-the-art system, give presentations for 8 hours, and then do a two-hour seminar for three days but I love seeing the reactions of audio lovers that visit the room with a degree of skepticism and leave with a smile on their face. Playing real high-resolution music tracks in full 5.1 surround sound in a great system does the trick every time. There were a number of people and even a few press people that commented that we had the best sounding room of the show for the second year in a row. And without any doubt we did. Some guys keep coming back for more after visiting the other rooms. But I doubt we’ll get any press.

I managed to escape my demo room for a about an hour on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday for another 90 minutes. The rooms at the other end of the hotel (Emotiva, Legacy, Scaena, and Seaton) sounded okay but not spectacular. The Scaena linear array speakers presented the best overall stereo I heard at the show but the hardware looked like the front grill of a 1958 Cadillac. A friend dragged me down to MBL’s room to hear what he considered the “best sound of the show”. They always do a good job and this year was no exception. I said hi to Greg Beron of United Home Audio. He strung up a reel-to-reel tape of a Kenny Loggins live concert held years ago in the Redwood forests of Northern California. It was loud, had lots and lots of heavy bass and really rocked the room…and I was sitting in the sweet spot. The opening piano solo didn’t sound like a piano to these ears but the playing was fabulous. There wasn’t a lot of dynamic range in the recordings but it was very pleasant and easy to listen to.

Then the MBL representative played a high-resolution (although at 88.2 kHz…which seems strange to me unless you’re going to make a CD) recording of a solo piano work and a chamber orchestra. The piano was very closely miked and was glorious! I especially liked the composition…the opening used a lot of inside the piano lid effects. However, the chamber orchestra was too distant and reverberant. The balance between the strings and the woodwinds was not right too. After hearing my own tracks for hours, this selection didn’t appeal.

I’ve been in touch with Jonathan Horwich of International Phonograph over the past couple of weeks. He a very talented and experienced recording engineer and was playing his demo tape through Magico Speakers in a room on the 6th floor. Once again, the compromises of analog tape were evident to my ears. I know he and other swear by the “ultimate sound” of analog tape, but the fidelity didn’t approach that of a great high-resolution track.

[NOTE] The last paragraph of this post has been removed following my receipt of a “CEASE AND DESIST LETTER” from Rodney E. Gould of the law firm of Rubin, Hay & Gould, P.C. in Framingham, MA, which represents the Nordost Corporation of Holliston, MA.


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About Author


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 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.

(18) Readers Comments

  1. Hello Mark
    Does Oppo have any intentions of building a muti-channel machine like the one you were using at the show?. If I remember correctly, you said some modifications are needed for the ultimate experience.

    • The Oppo BD player that we had at the show had four S/P DIF coaxial outputs. They can’t sell the modification but I can. If you’re interested, just let me know.

  2. Mark,

    I forgot to ask… I saw you talking to the MQA guy at the Mytek table on Sunday. Any updates?


    • I’ve known Jeff Dean of MQA for a long time. We talked about getting a couple of my files prepped in the format and letting me hear them. I’ll bug him…but I have been waiting 18 months since I sent some files.

  3. In February I got my first listen to the new B&W 804 D3 and 803 D3 speakers. I was at a Best Buy Magnolia store in Allen Texas. I brought my own music CD and I asked the salesman to play the 804 D3 first and then the 803 D3. When he switched to the 804 D3 he turned up the volume slightly. I asked him to do it again but leave the volume alone. At normal listening levels I could never tell which speaker was playing. The salesman was obviously trying to prevent this from happening.

    • I think this is a very common practice.

  4. Paul McGowan couldn’t get to Axpona. He was snowed in in Denver by a blizzard. Sounds like there was a lot of snow jobs in Chicago too only there it was indoors.

    • Same old things…

  5. wow, I can’t wait for the next post! I am sure no shady methods were used to promote a $6000 power cable….

    • I’ll write this up tomorrow. I sat through the entire demo for “resonance cones” and “power cords. I didn’t see the presenter do anything obvious. But I can tell you that power cords and resonance cones don’t make the volume increase…and it did.

  6. I wasn’t there so I can’t speak about this specific occasion. I can tell you from having witnessed a Nordost wire comparison that the preamp IS SWITCHED to a dead input while switching cables, then back to the input in use for comparison playback.This is done so that the volume control can be left completely alone.

    I hope the ‘witness’ to this dastardly act did not confuse one action for another. If indeed the volume was being tweaked each time, then shame on the presenters. If your witness made the wrong call, his mistake is just as bad. Innocent until proven guilty, might want to try that on for size here. I will be interested in the outcome.

    • Craig, I’ll write a post about my experience during the Nordost Power Cable demo. I can say that I didn’t see the presenter change the volume on the system although I know he didn’t switch to a dead input. The reports from the other gentleman were not confirmed during my visit…and I’m not surprised. The cable people know who I am.

      • Thank you Mark. As someone who works tirelessly and honestly to enable folks to obtain deeper rewards from Hi-Fi m usic listening, I am tired of the broad brush stroke that is used to smear high-end enthusiasts and vendors.

        “One bad Apple spoils the barrel,”, now that takes on whole new meaning now, doesn’t it? We keep hearing rumors that Apple will stream 24/96, but until that happens it will just be another Northern California pipedream. I await your further reports on Nordost demo experiences.

    • [NOTE] This comment which described an experience an attendee of the AXPONA show had has been removed following my receipt of a “CEASE AND DESIST LETTER” from Rodney E. Gould of the law firm of Rubin, Hay & Gould, P.C. in Framingham, MA, which represents the Nordost Corporation of Holliston, MA.


      • Thanks Patrick. I’ll be writing about my experience with the same demo today. I kept my eye on the volume knob…and to the presenter’s credit…he didn’t modify the number. It was kept at 57 the whole time.

  7. Thank You Mark.

    From where we stand, these shows become as much a test of the listener as it is the product. To offer you something back, because it should be noted equally, your hearing is unbiased. Not an easy task for anyone. We fall into the strange category, where we dont subconsciously impress the listener with price, on neither ends of the price spectrum, nor brand recognition and regalia. The fact that you were uninfluenced by its looks, further underscores that. You are spot on, unannounced to the listener, its precisely what we aimed for at this show. An entire night was spent by a team of 5 working on getting the algorithm just right.

  8. Mark

    Why not charge $10-20 for a 1 hour ticket to your room. Could be applied against a purchase of your music. I think people would se the value in the offer.


    • I like the suggestion but the administration of the show would never allow it…they maintain control of the paid access to the show. And I really doubt that anyone would pay based on reputation. I need people to hear what’s possible. Cheers.

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