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.
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.
Since it launched on March 1 with the tagline, “Music as the artist and sound engineer intended,” there’s been much discussion — along with a plethora of questions — circulating within the audio community about Apple’s Mastered for iTunes initiative.
The Producers & Engineers Wing was one of many entities that worked with iTunes over the course of approximately 18 months as the program took shape. Several P&E Wing members, including Eric Boulanger, Bob Ludwig and Andrew Scheps, consulted on the initiative’s earliest “test case” releases: Colbie Caillat’s All Of You, the entire Pink Floyd catalog remastering, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ I’m With You.
Mastered for iTunes launched in March. By the end of April, an informal P&E Wing survey of several top mastering engineers indicated that most of the major label releases they handled were MFiT.
While some confusion has surfaced, Mastered for iTunes is, in effect, a simple digital audio workflow, encoding and submission process that includes a series of guidelines and tools designed to help users achieve increased dynamic range and less distortion in the iTunes versions of their music. The P&E Wing applauds Apple for its commitment to make higher-quality audio available to consumers.
“There has been some confusion that MFiT is a new format. It’s not,” says Boulanger. “It’s more about righting the wrongs of the last few years when masters created for CDs at 16-bit/44.1 kHz were being used for iTunes releases. MFiT is an example of our industry acknowledging that digital downloads are no longer secondary to CD releases, and that we can move forward into distributing better audio overall.”