A Few Updates

I know, I know…I’ve been lazy over the past month and remiss in not writing. No new posts, no rants, no complaining, and no news. As I look around at the usual audio sites and read the usual posts by the usual commentators, there’s not really much new. I have no interest in mega priced components or speakers. Likewise, I’m tired of seeing — and participating — in discussions about pricey cables, MQA, and the relative merits of vinyl vs. digital. For all of the information that is available to curious audiophiles in books and online, companies selling crazy expensive accessories and “snake oil” cables are still ripping off new customers, reviewers are still lauding the benefits of these products, and consumers are still posting FB comments justifying their own positions.

A couple of seasoned professionals and friends were included on a shared email the other day that typifies the BS that passes for advertising. The following is a real:

“Venice: Not Enough For You (Free Download)
In May 2006, Turtle Records produced the latest Venice album, called ‘Amsterdam’.

The CD version of it was released in September 2006, and did hit the album charts in Holland at nr 8. The album has been received with great enthusiasm, and many positive reviews have been written on it, with also a lot of emphasis on the ‘special’ acoustic recording approach that we took for this wonderful album. Exactly 1 year later, Turtle Records had decided to release the most fitting songs of the album on Vinyl. The original recordings, made in the ultra high resolution DXD format, are of such quality and delicate resolution, that a release other than on cd was inevitable. As many know the merits of vinyl, in combination with the state of the art turntables that are available these days, go far beyond those of CD, and the musical atmosphere of the original masters, is reproduced more effective on this medium.

We don’t claim it to be better on all aspects, but somehow the message of the songs, and their musical substance is transferred more accurately and direct than from CD.

Saludos/Regards (check it for yourself Click Here)”

Such exaggerated claims are not uncommon. I’ve read similar things from vinyl advocates for years but this irks me because the original master was a bona fide high-resolution digital master.

As I look to the desk on my left this morning, there is a Technics SL-1220 MK2 turntable! Incredible as it may seem, Dr. AIX has been playing some vinyl LPs over the past week. I borrowed the turntable from the widow of the late Ron Grant (a talented film composer and award-winning inventor) to do some transfers for a very patient client (I’ve had her platters for almost two years!). After digitizing some Norwegian choir music, I put on a new copy of “George Van Eps’ Seven String Guitar”. I was hoping to hear his amazing arrangements through a Denon receiver and Oppo M1 headphones. Alas, it was not to be. I was sadly disappointed. The amount of surface noise and ticks and pops drew my attention away from the music. How anyone can think that vinyl is more “effective” than even standard-resolution PCM digital is unfathomable. The “so-called” merits of vinyl escaped me during my brief journey back to vinyl LPs. It’s back to the fidelity, convenience, and capabilities of PCM digital for this audiophile.

Almost daily, I get requests for the HD Audio Challenge FTP credentials, which I graciously provide. Sadly, I don’t get very many responses once these individuals take the challenge. Of the roughly 1200 people that have asked for — and received — the files, less than 100 have replied with their answers. As I reported over a month ago, the challenge has shown that virtually no one can perceive a difference between a bona fide HD file and the CD downconverted versions. I’m not surprised. If you’ve taken the test and haven’t let me know how you did, please take time to report back. You can do so at: HD Challenge Results.

Those of you who backed the YARRA 3DX 3D audio sound bar and have been patiently waiting for delivery have only a little while longer to wait. How do I know? There is going to be an AIX Records sampler DVD included with each unit and I was told that I had to have 3000 copies at the Chinese factory by the 20th of this month. The manufacturing has begun and shipment to the US should happen before the end of the month. The local distribution partner will then be shipping the finished goods to anxious backers. Some backers have been patient and others have been posting rants on the KS page. I don’t blame anyone for their concerns. If I was still involved with the company, I would have regularly posted updates, responded to emails, and otherwise maintained the community. That hasn’t happened. I do see all of the emails and the comments but do not respond because it is no longer my responsibility. I apologize for the lack of communication. The company is doing their best…but could obviously do better. I remain confident that everyone will be happy once they get their YARRA 3DX.

Finally, I’m leaving tomorrow to the UK. I’ve been invited to give a series of master classes and workshops at the School of Music at CIT in Cork, Ireland. My wife and I will spend a couple of day in London and then fly to Dublin on Saturday. I’m trying to tour the Abbey Road studios on Friday and have a request in through a friend. What a thrill that would be — to visit the control rooms and studios where the Beatles and so many others created magic. There’s some travel through Ireland involved…if any of my UK readers ping me back, there might be an opportunity to meet briefly or have a drink. Always looking for the local recommendations and outstanding sites to visit. The itinerary has us going through London, Dublin, Galway, Killarney, Cork, and Waterford. We’ve got our rain gear and wind proof umbrellas — so I think we’re ready.

If anyone is interested in purchasing “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound”, please be aware that it won’t ship until I return. I’ll be online during the trip and can deliver eBooks in the interim. Reviews continue to be very positive for the 900-page reference book and Charlie (the family border collie) never complains about walking to the local post office. Thanks for all of the continued support.


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.

13 thoughts on “A Few Updates

  • Every time a LP is played, it is being degraded by the diamond stylus. How can they possibly retain their fidelity when this is happening?
    Factor in platter speed variations, cartridge/arm alignment in all dimensions, the condition of the stylus, the weight of it on the LP, surface dust and whatever else you can think of – it’s digital for me, all day every day.
    The only maintenance required is a backup routine.
    Where I used to buy new belts, a new cartridge, a new arm, or a new stylus, or new albums as each of them wore out, now I buy new files that never degrade or a new DAC and hand my old one on to my son.
    Each to their own and I wholeheartedly support whatever medium floats your boat, but my life is much simpler now that I have embraced the digital domain.

  • Larry Herrett

    Your post and the link to the Turtle Records site must have overwhelmed them, ha ha. I have gone there and requested the download to have a listen but the site just times out as unreachable (it took my info but then when you click to do an actual download it looses you). Oh well. Have a good trip and good luck with the Abbey Road tour.

  • David G Anderson

    Please note if the original studio monitors are still at the Abbey Road Studios. (15″ co-axial Tannoy golds in the Lockwood cabinets with Arborite facings.)

  • Grant

    Hi Mark, your comment about vinyl reminded me of about 15 years ago, when I emailed the Janis Ian website to enquire and maybe buy some of her music.

    The gentleman who replied expressed his amusement that I had said I am an audiophile with interest in the best recording quality, yet I had asked for the CD, and not the LP. He said it was the first time he had ever heard of someone using the words CD and quality in the same sentence.

    No need to ask his opinion on the matter!

    I think, from memory, I demurred on a purchase, as I was a bit downhearted and lost confidence that they had put any effort into mastering the CD to audiophile standards.

  • John Deas

    Hi Mark,

    I’m still intrigued by all the people downloading the files but not responding – I still put my money on it being through their disappointment at not easily telling any difference, it would be good to know one way or another.

    Enjoy your trip and if decide to stop off in Bristol I’ll buy you a pint!

  • Mark Lemieux

    Hello Mark –

    I’d love to take the HD Challenge and promise to report back to you.
    Thanks and safe travels!

  • Sridhar Sockalingam

    Noted your comments about folks who didn’t provide feedback after reviewing the HD Challenge. Unfortunately, I never received the credentials and so have not downloaded the 6 recordings.

  • Lee McLean

    I really appreciate your speaking truth to power. My own experiments with down converting high res to CD resolution (this is the only valid way to do the comparison, otherwise you’re comparing different masters) always produced either identical results or (paradoxically) CD res sounding marginally better, but I didn’t completely trust my own methodology. As I reported, however, your very well done high res test produced exactly the same results. That doesn’t mean I don’t think high res has benefits during recording – indeed, the extra bit depth at least is essential for live recording and mixing – but CD res is clearly transparent for playback, at least if upsampled. I do not believe there is any benefit to storing ultrasonic frequencies, BUT there is a clear and audible benefit to the greater time domain accuracy afforded by higher sampling rates, which upsampling provides. Indeed, this may even provide slightly better fidelity in some cases, as the ultrasonic frequencies in high res can lead to intermodulation distortion feeding back into the audio band. This is all icing on the digital cake though: IMHO, even the worst CD player will always sound more accurate than even the very best vinyl.

    • Grant

      Hello, time domain accuracy is unaffected by sample rate, and better than a nanosecond in all cases. A complete non-issue in other words. Cheers

  • Musiclover


    “The amount of surface noise and ticks and pops drew my attention away from the music.”

    Well, the owner of “Better records” has this to say, quote:

    “Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.

    If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.”

    But I am with you, I prefer listening to music without distracting noises (surface noise, pops, clicks etc.). The way it should be.

  • Chris Bundhun

    I hope that you had an enjoyable and productive time over here in the British Isles.

    Agreed that the abundance of misinformed comments and hyped advertising has become tiresome. One new product which seems to beggar belief is surely the $8000 Sony DMP-Z1, which offers a ‘Vinyl Processor’ to add noise to your pristine digital recordings!?

    Amid all the hi-res options, and no shortage of home cinema equipment, I do find it somewhat surprising that multichannel audio has been quietly dropped by the major companies. Most SACD players now feature stereo analog & digital outputs only, no HDMI…making Blu-ray / “universal” players a preferable option.
    Linn of Scotland had a considerable 5.1 SACD classical & acoustic catalogue: since they no longer produce physical discs, 24/96 downloads are offered, but only in stereo.

    I heard some tracks from Paul Simon’s ‘In the Blue Light’: given the esoteric jazz/classical arrangements, this would have been an ideal contender for multichannel, but no SACD or 5.1 downloads from Sony in 2018, apparently.
    A backward step?…but then again, I’ve never criticized the ‘Red Book’ CD.

  • Cormac Long

    delighted to see you got the lecture gig in CIT, Cork. Hope it goes/went well and the guys you lectured learned something in the process 🙂

  • Soundmind

    I had a huge fight with Michael Fremer on line several months ago. This jerk called me an antisemitic Nazi. He later apologized telling me some blather about how much hate mail he gets. I pointed out that I am also Jewish. That'[s what shut him up about that.

    What got him so riled up? It was a comment I made that wasn’t even on his web site. What did I say? I said only what is true, that for the storage and retrieval of electrical signals that are supposed to be analogs of music CDs were far superior technology to vinyl phonograph records. I am still at a loss as to why what should be only a pleasant hobby to rational people or at worst a business gets people so riled up when someone’s opinion doesn’t agree with theirs. It’s like some lunatic religious freak who has just heard blasphemy. Did I say that all CDs sound better than all vinyl recordings? No of course not. Even CD releases of the same recording by the same manufacturer might not sound as pleasing as the original vinyl. There are many reasons for that but superior technology isn’t one of them. RBCD beats vinyl hands down and NO i don’t believe any human can hear above 20 khz or that you need 144 db of dynamic range for any music, and certainly not pop music.

    I probably got his goat when I told him his turntable were ugly, stupid looking and inferior to my Empires which have dynamically balanced tonearms with sapphire bearings, where the platters are individually balanced, and the main journal bearing is a matched set machined to 1/100,000 of an inch. The President of Empire must habe had OCD. Fremer didn’t like that at all. I also told him my Shure V15 Type V MR was a better cartridge than his Gazillion dollar POS. If nothing else it tracks better which IMO is the most important thing a cartridge has to do. The sound can easily be manipulated with an equalizer.

    When I set out to build my ultimate sound system using the principles I discovered/invented money was no object. Both of the two prototypes, the second one now the only one in existence and IMO the best sound reproducing machine in the world neither cost over $3000. That’s right Three thousand dollars. That’s less than some people pay for a single power cord. It works on an entirely different principle which is partly expressed in my US patent 4,332,979. It only proves that brains beats money and that no matter how much money you throw at a flawed idea the results are still going to be flawed. BTW, my favorite CD player is a JVC XL431 that cost $200 around 1990. Beat my $750 Denon that died a long time ago. 35 dollar Toshiba 192 khz 24 bit DVD machines designed about 16 years later with entirely different technology sound identical to the JVC. to the degree that I couldn’t tell them apart by their sound if my life depended on it. Conclusion, they both work exactly as they are supposed to.


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