QUALITY SOUND: WHAT IS IT AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
By Mark Waldrep
As a musician, audio engineer, producer of high-resolution recordings, audiophile, blogger (www.realHD-Audio.com) and professor of audio recording, my life has been dominated by music and sound for a very long time. I’ve been working in the field for more than 40 years and have experience with a wide variety of formats including analog tape, vinyl LPs, cassettes, CDs, minidisc, DVD-A/V, Blu-ray and soundfiles…as an engineer AND consumer.
Sound recording has been around for more than 100 years. During that period, the fidelity of each succeeding format has improved. From the first Edison cylinders and Emil Berliner’s flat discs to today’s high-resolution formats, music consumers have benefited from the inevitable march of technology. With the possible exception of the MP3 format, listening to recorded music has never been better than it is today…and you don’t have to be a well-heeled audiophile to appreciate it.
Creating and distributing quality recorded sound is a collaborative effort involving a variety of talented individuals and state-of-the-art technologies. The fidelity potential of today’s equipment and processes is far greater than at any time in the past…but only if producers and engineers make conscious choices to deliver recordings full of dynamics, extended frequency response and maybe even surround mixes. Believe me you’ll know quality sound when you hear it (there are free downloadable samples from my own AIX Records catalog at the realHD-Audio.com site).
Consumer demand for high quality sound is only beginning. Younger listeners are transitioning from ear buds and to better quality personal headphone listening. They’re finding that the richness and increased fidelity makes the investment in better gear worthwhile. The personalization of music also means that older listeners can get refreshed versions of their “classic” favorites in high-resolution for delivery through a new generation of better sounding devices…for the home, in their cars and from the pocket.
Quality sound brings you closer to the music regardless of the type of music that you enjoy. If things sound more natural and lifelike, you’ll want to listen more and won’t experience the sonic fatigue that sometimes accompanies over processed, heavily compressed music playback.
Better quality sound is out there. There’s new gear on which to enjoy it and lots of music content…both classic and new…to spin, download or stream. Check it out and pass it on.
ACCURACY IS NOT THE ANSWER
DISCOVER #QUALITYSOUND AND ENTER TO WIN A TRIP TO THE 56th GRAMMY AWARDS!
How long does it take you to listen to your favorite song, maybe three or four minutes? Well, consider that those artists and engineers can spend months, and sometimes even years, creating a product they feel passionate about and want to share with the world. By putting their blood, sweat and tears into the music, musicians want to ensure you hear their best possible work.
CEA and The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing introduced www.qualitysoundmatters.com last year, and today they’re relaunching the new and improved website format and content. The goal of this site is to help consumers understand high-quality digital audio formats and equipment and why customers should demand them. The site offers information about how consumers can enhance the enjoyment of their music by seeking out today’s higher-quality digital file formats and using listening and storage products that help retain the sound of the music as the artists and engineers intended.
To celebrate the relaunch of www.qualitysoundmatters.com, we are giving away a quality audio product every day this week, culminating Friday with a grand prize of tickets to the GRAMMYs. To enter, simply visit the CEA Twitter feed (@CEA) at Noon EST each day, find that day’s question, and then respond correctly with the hashtag #QualitySound before 4 p.m. EST. Here are the fantastic audio products you could win.
Every Day: One-Year Grooveshark Subscription: Enjoy unlimited, ad-free streaming, experience exclusive themes and features and unlock native Android and iOS apps with this premium subscription.
Monday – Sony: MDR1R Hi-Res Headphones: Hear your music the way it was intended, while enjoying a harmonious blend of listening comfort, thoughtful design and pristine sound quality. In-line remote with built-in mic works perfectly with an iPod®, iPad® or iPhone®.
Tuesday – Core Brands: Korus Wireless Speaker : The V600s is the premier wireless home speaker in the Korus lineup and packs the muscle to make any room boom. This is the ideal centerpiece to your Korus system, perfect for your favorite room in the house. Or, take the system with you, just by switching to battery power whenever you can’t plug in. There's no complicated network setup or pairing process. Just plug the 30-pin, Lightning™, or USB compatible Baton audio transmitter that’s compatible with your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod® mobile devices, PC or Mac® computer and instantly play your favorite music, videos and games using the apps you use every day.
Wednesday – Denon Home Theater Receiver: Denon’s AVR-E400 7.1 Channel Network Home Theater Receiver provides powerful surround sound performance with advanced networking technology for Internet radio services such as SiriusXM and vTuner, as well as Apple’s AirPlay Technology, so you can enjoy music from your iPhone. The AVR-E400 also features Audyssey Bronze Package, included for easy calibration and optimization of your audio performance and tailored to your room environment
Thursday – Astell&Kern AK100 portable high-res system: Astell&Kern is the ultimate portable, high-fidelity audio system capable of studio Mastering Quality Sound (MQS). Able to handle up to 24 Bit/192 kHz playback of high-resolution audio files, this small player has raised the bar for what is possible with portable hi-fi.
Friday – GRAMMY Tickets: A pair of tickets to the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, broadcast live from the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2014.
QUALITY SOUNDS MAKE A QUALITY DIFFERENCE
It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual listener or a music enthusiast, your listening experience is a pivotal moment where your expectations are preset in that you will experience not only the symbolism of your favorite artist, but more importantly, the sonic nuances in the musical composition as the respective artist had intended.
For most of us, the experience has been less than fulfilling. Depending on your music platform, many of the vivid nuances are omitted due to the variances in digital formats that sacrifice audio spectrum for compression space and portability.
For some, including myself, there are fond memories of vinyl tracks being delivered though their favorite audio hardware. All of that changed as tapes, CDs and eventually digital downloads provided flexibility and access to our favorite music collections coupled with the choice of specific tracks streaming wirelessly across multiple devices and throughout our cars, homes and related platforms.
Welcome to the new world order – Hi-Resolution Audio has the promise to deliver music the way it was intended while leveraging today’s requirement for access, flexibility and portability.
Our favorite tracks (and “albums”) are now being re-mastered to allow the full spectrum of music fidelity to once again be part of the listening experience.
If you’re a Springsteen fan like me, just listen to some of your favorite tracks that have been re-mastered by Jon Landau; obviously in cooperation with the “Boss” himself. You’ll remember the first time you heard “Born to Run” on vinyl and you’ll hear segments of “Wrecking Ball” that you never experienced with any download prior to Hi-Res audio.
You can support your desire for the complete experience by downloading the iAudiogate Hi-Resolution audio player for your iPhone or similar APPs designed for Android phones.
Will there be new hardware? Of course!
There are numerous hardware components now available to support Hi-Res audio playback. It will holiday gift season soon, so add one to your wish list!
Remember, music is a personal experience whereby a connection is made between the artist’s message and the user’s personal life and related experience. Let’s take this opportunity to make music delivery be the highest quality experience we can find; regardless of our environment.
By Frank J. Parrotto, COO, Matrix Advisors, LLC