HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO: MAGICAL OR MYTHICAL?
When High-Resolution audio is the subject of a news piece on NPR, you might start to believe that we've reached the tipping point and that high quality audio is poised to take the place of lo-fi, heavily compressed music files. I was certainly encouraged when I listened to Ben Johnson interview Neil Young about his new High-Resolution music player called Pono and accompanying High-Resolution digital music download site Ponomusic (slated for launch in October of this year). But just like any other new product or service, there's a lot more to learn about High-Resolution audio than a catchy slogan can deliver. "Rediscovering the soul of music" doesn't just happen by ripping compact discs and upconverting them to higher specs.
I'm personally thrilled that Neil and others at the labels, CEA and The Recording Academy have ignited the fuse on High-Resolution audio. My own record label AIX Records, Hi-Res digital music download site iTrax, and my daily posts at RealHD-Audio.com are just a few of the ways that I've been advocating for High-Resolution audio for more than 14 years. High-Resolution audio makes it possible to bring music recording and reproduction to new heights of realism and involvement. Really. Once you hear the real thing, you'll know immediately how much better the sound of recorded music can be.
Just today I received an email from an iTrax.com customer and musician who purchased and downloaded a new project that I produced for Sprint, the number three mobile provider in the world that is behind the HTC M8 Harman Kardon High-Resolution smartphone. The actual release isn't until Monday, August 18, but I previewed the project on HRA Planet, an information site focused on all things high-res. The new product is called the "iTrax - Sprint Ultra HD-Audio Sampler" and contains 18 Ultra HD-Audio stereo recordings in a variety of musical styles. Here's what he wrote, "Just bought the sampler in FLAC format & am working my way through each track. Wow! Tracks 1 & 4 are amazing! As a musician, hearing performances in current state of the art fidelity is inspirational. Thank you for your dedication to the faithful (transparent) reproduction of our art form."
Likewise, professional writers/reviewers for the audiophile magazines have been impressed. The Absolute Sound Senior Editor Andrew Quint came to the studio and listened to a number of our High-Resolution audio tracks in full 5.1 surround sound and wrote, "…the multichannel audio, emanating from five B & W 801 loudspeakers, is quite simply the most realistic and involving instance of recorded sound I can recall, from any source format." It's a good day when one of the major trade magazines recognizes that High-Resolution audio sounds better than vinyl LPs, CD and even analog tapes.
But the magic that can be captured and delivered in High-Resolution is not only the result of higher sample rates, longer wavelengths or any new digital delivery format. The reason that the authors of the previous comments were so impressed was due to the adoption of a new set of production methodologies…it's the way that the recordings are made, not the container that they are delivered in. I engineer and produce records that are notprocessed so that they punch through your car speakers or Beats headphones. My High-Resolution recordings are intended for listeners that want to capture and maintain the natural sound and dynamics of a singer and the band. That's where the magic starts and it's my responsibility to get it to you. You can get hear some samples at the RealHD-Audio.com site – just ask and I'll send you the credentials to our FTP site.
The purist style of recording doesn't work for every genre of music, but it does work for most. It should be offered in addition to the heavily compressed and lo-fi music that we experience on the radio or through the Internet. Music lovers everywhere should let their favorite artists know that they want great songs andgreat sound. High-Resolution audio has the potential to rock your world – check it out and prepare to be impressed.
By Mark Waldrep - CAE Audio Board Member and Producer/Engineer
iTrax.com / AIX Records Founder