Editorial for August 2008

by | Aug 1, 2008 | Editorial | 0 comments

Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6

For August we are awarding a pair of Phoenix Wi-Fi radios to two lucky Audiophile Audition readers. See our review of it Here. It comes already programmed with many international netcast streams as well as podcasts and book readings, but you can add your own favorites from the vast Internet at the Com.One website. Having a portable Wi-Fi radio gets you away from your computer to listen anywhere in your home. Some of the classical and jazz outlets use higher than normal sampling rates, and audio quality is better than a typical MP3 file at the same rate because the bandwidth is unlimited. If you register on the site this month your name could well be one of the lucky two drawn to receive these unique radios in September. (You might mention your specific interest in the Comments field on your registration.) 

These are the winners of the SACD plus CD from Forte Distributors – our July Giveaway: Robert Saber, Riverside CA;  Lenny Cyment, Scottsdale AZ; David Judamik, Renfrew PA; Susan Alles, Rio Rancho NM; Amy Stripling, Anchorage AK; Sharon Jones, Norwood MA; Bob Barton, West Valley City, UT; Jesse Gallegos, Riverside CA; Kevin Murray, Denver CO; Petty Boutin, Rochester NH.
Congrats to the winners!


Suddenly the long talked-about convergence of computers and home entertainment seems to be happening in both the audio and video realms. At present I’m of the opinion that downloading feature films off the Internet is not-yet-ready-for-prime time, but let me address the “computer audiophile” area.  Several exhibitors at recent audio shows claimed that all their demonstrations were made off computer hard drives because it sounded better than any of the optical disc players they manufactured. Well, since they had none of their players there I remain unconvinced.

Also, I would agreed with fellow audio writer Steve Guttenberg, who says he can’t imagine using a music server because he likes picking  music from his large collection as a touchy-feely, organic process. Right! You get distanced from that with your collection on a hard drive, and furthermore the search and database functions are set up for short individual pop, rock and jazz tunes – not for multi-movement classical works.  (Search for the Andante of Mahler’s Second and you’ll get every Andante in your whole collection.)  With a collection of physical discs, one selection or album can lead to the next one, and you can make discoveries and connections.

The hassle involved in trying to get better-than-44.1/16-bit audio out of a computer is so far just not worth it as far as I’m concerned. It is encouraging that some download sites such as MusicGiants are now beginning to offer hi-res audio files of albums in addition to the 44.1K or MP3 data-reduced alternatives. There is much confusion associated with the movement, such as many suppliers calling standard CD-format “HD” when it isn’t HD at all.  Only higher sampling and bit-rates than 44.1K/16-bit are “HD”  Then Computer Audiophile has a current article about how easy it is to download and use the HD files now sold by MusicGiants.  The easy solution?  Buy a PC!  For Mac fans that is apostacy.

Are fans of high fidelity recorded music now forced to purchase a second computer for their main audio system and go thru all the hassle of downloading files as well as copying files from their present discs to a giant hard drive – one that can and will eventually completely fail at any point in the future?  Hard drives are temporary and not solid storage such as CDs, SACDs and LPs.  Perhaps there is the convenience of accessing your library almost instantly via the computer, but consider all the time spent doing the transfers, downloading, organizing, etc.  And the fact that with one little computer glitch, you could lose your entire library!  I don’t want to deal with a second computer for my best music listening system;  when I leave the Mac on which I edit AUDIOPHILE AUDITION while giving a first listen to some new CDs on my office system, I want to be done with it.

One supporter of computer-based systems claims that resistant audiophiles see it as “the end of high quality music reproduction.”  The way the vast majority of people are using it today (with MP3), that is correct, but even if the higest-res digital files are used, when one’s hard drive dies and there is no backup (most people don’t schedule regular backups of their drives and the majority don’t back up at all!) that person will find it’s the end of at least his or her high quality music reproduction, and perhaps the entire collection!

The 176.4K HRx albums from Reference Recordings are an example of one audiophile label jumping on the hot current trend of computer audiophilia. These DVD-Rs are specifically created not to be played on any optical disc player – either DVD or CD – but only to copy their digital files to a computer or music server’s hard drive. Using the same format as all the Reference Recordings masters that have been made for the last several years, they claim to be the highest possible resolution and fidelity of any two-channel format. Not really correct; DVD-audio has had the option of 192K/24-bit two-channel audio for many years now.  (Not that the typical listener could hear any difference between 96K, 176.4K or 192K…)  In order to review the sample HRx DVD-R from Reference Recordings, I would have to over a thousand dollars of new equipment to my Mac.  It is simply illogical to do so in order to review one new release which retails for $45.

Even if I could get a signal from my Oppo player to my Benchmark DAC1, it would come out as 110K – not 176.4K. I am told USB DACs are limited to 96K, but I could  downsample the 176.4K to 88.1K in iTunes and rip a DVD-R as a WAV or AIFF file – but then what’s advantage of the 176.4K?  According to one manufacturer, “it would give me a taste of the high resolution” – but plain 96K gaves me a better taste!  I’ve learned that someone with DVD-A-burning software burned either a 96K or 192K DVD-A from the Reference file, but then why not release it then as a DVD-A to begin with?

Why aren’t other labels besides HDTT and Classic Records offering 96K/24-bit DVDs?  Most standard DVD video players which most people now have will pass the 96K stereo signal, and as long as it doesn’t get downsampled to 48K elsewhere in your system the result is a huge improvement over 44.1K/16-bit standard CDs!  96K DVDs would reach a much larger audience than either 176.4K or 192K recordings, and most people cannot hear the difference. This would have been a sensible choice for Reference Recordings, whose masters boast some of the finest around, but they chose to never issue any in the hi-res SACD format.

The proposal for audio-only Blu-ray discs is equally lame.  While not connected specifically with computer audio, there is no need for yet another hi-res surround audio format.  We have it and have had it since 2002 with multichannel SACD – resulting in well over 5300 releases thus far worldwide!  Since that excellent format has only been really adopted by the European and Asian classical labels, why in the world would the promoters of Blu-ray think that an audio-only Blu-ray format would garner enough interest from the world community?  It’s bad enough waiting for the load time on most Blu-ray players before we get a chance to see anything – who would want to wait until you could hear the music on an audio-only disc – which would probably require a video display screen to navigate, as did DVD-Audio?

 – John Sunier


 General Editorial 

Welcome to the web publication for audio, music and home theater, emphasizing hi-res, hi-def, and surround sound for music! AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began as a weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, which aired for 13 1/2 years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations coast to coast.
August 08 is our 114th issue and we’re coming up on our Tenth Anniversary in September! All reviews – well over 100 per month – are added throughout the month as they are written and received, usually on a daily basis. We have organized the web site to make it easy to navigate and find content. The most recent reviews appear at the top of each Section Index. To read the full review, click on the headline and you will be taken directly to that review. The Home Page lists the five latest published reviews, the Section Index lists the past two months of reviews, the Archive goes back to June 1, 2005, and for all reviews by month prior to that you need to click on the Old Archive, which goes back to 2001. The Disc Index also lists past reviews in every section.
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Geffen, Laurence Vittes, Tom Gibbs,
Lemco, Brian Bloom, Clay Swartz, John Henry, Peter Bates, Ron
Legum, Paul Pelon IV, Calvin Harding Jr.,
Birney Brown, Jeff Krow, Daniel Krow, Hermon Joyner, Bob Moon, Steven Ritter, Randy Haldeman, Max Dudious, Howard Herrnstadt, John Nemaric, Doug Simpson, Peter Joelson, Jan P. Dennis, John Sunier.

  © John Sunier 2008 

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