Meeting Topic: High Definition Audio
Moderator Name: John Svetlik
Speaker Name: Dr. Mark Waldrep, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Meeting Location: California State University, Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA
On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, the AES Los Angeles section met at California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA, for a presentation by Professor Mark Waldrep.
Dr. Waldrep began by discussing his academic career, including six college degrees: a Ph.D. in electronic music composition, a Master's in computer science, two graduate degrees in music composition, and an undergraduate degree in art and in music. He is also the founder of AIX Records, which specialized in 5.1 surround sound recording using sampling rates of 96 kHz and 24-bit words, with an emphasis on unadorned recording techniques with minimal processing.
Dr. Waldrep's talk focused on his views of High Definition audio. "In 1999, we got a new format, DVD Audio, that allowed for much higher digital sampling rates than CD, up to six audio channels at 192 kHz sampling rate, and eight at 96 kHz." He continued, "At about the same time, two other 1-bit formats—SACD and DSD--were released, but I find these technologies to be as appealing for the work I wished to do. In 2000 there were no high-resolution audio recordings. Analog tape at 30 fps and Dolby SR, or LP—these are not high-resolution audio recording technologies." It was at this point he formed AIX Records, and through that recorded over 100 albums. "I would make a complete album in four or five hours, with musicians that can play," he said. "Rita Coolidge or Willie Nelson or Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in one pass. My intent was to elevate the listening experience, and move away from the mastering philosophy where the loudest, most compressed recording always wins."
Dr. Waldrep believes that the chance to improve the overall quality of recordings has been subverted by corporate interests. He described the three current High Resolution logos and their origins: "Hi-Res Audio", a format developed by Sony to describe hardware products capable of recording sound up to 40 kHz, with a 96 kHz sampling rate and 24-bit depth.
The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) created a labeling standard for audio recordings, called "Hi-Res Music". It was ultimately used not only for improved quality but also a means to sell the record company's back catalog again. The logo was subdivided based on the source material.
Panasonic also developed its own logo, "Hi-Res Sound", which it used only for its own products.
Dr. Waldrep's argument, though, is that none of these improve the listening experience. Much of the re-released music file is filled with zeros, for frequencies above 35 kHz. While you can't hear this, the digital equipment still deals with it.
Written By: John Svetlik