About a year ago, a customer called and asked about MAXD as an HD-Audio format. I said that I hadn’t heard about MAXD but would look into it and get back to him. It turns out that the company is located just a few miles from me. So I looked at their website, downloaded their white papers and began doing a little research…before I called over there and asked if I could come by and demo the system myself.
The basic gist of their pitch is that they claim they can deliver “HD-Audio” in the same bandwidth as a standard MP3 file. And who wouldn’t want that, right? Their technical explanation is pretty non-specific, although they do state that they are not merely using EQ to boost the low and high ends of the processed tracks. The company is publicly traded and has been able to associate with some celebrity musicians to help market their technology. No less than Mick Fleetwood and Pitbull are shown cheering about the sound quality of a MAXD processed file.
So I visited their offices and got the demo. I sat in a small meeting room and listened to an A|B comparison of two sound files. the waveforms were displayed on a monitor at the front of the room. I’ve looked at hundreds of sound files displayed this way and knew right away that these were highly compressed and had obviously gone through the standard mastering stage of normal record production. The head of the company played the tune and alternately switched between the “standard CD rip” and the MAXD processed version of the same tune. There was tremendous difference. They were both essentially the same volume but one was bright and crisp with a heavy bass and the other timbrally balanced and contained. Asked which I preferred, I selected the non-hyped version. It turned out to the be CD rip at 44.1 kHz 16-bits. As a seasoned engineer and especially since I had been a mastering guy for over a decade, I knew exactly what was going on and wasn’t about to pick something just because it pushed the high and low ends of the spectrum.
But they said they didn’t use EQ so how did they make the high and low end more apparent? It’s not difficult at all. There are digital signal processors that modify the amplitude and phase relationships of a track, which can clarify specific frequency ranges. One of the other engineers at my office and I actually mocked up the MAXD process in about 30 minutes.
There’s nothing there other than marketing hype. And that marketing hype is all about how MAXD is bringing HD-Audio into the mainstream just like HD-Video replaced standard definition video. It’s obvious that they’re tailoring a new set of clothing for the emperor and fooling a lot of investors and customer along the way. They have an Android app that applies their magic fairy dust to any music track in your library. Apparently, it’s as simply as that and presto you have HD versions of all of your favorite music.
This is a prime example of why more information is needed. There’s a lot of hot air out there.