Editorial for June 2011

by | Jun 1, 2011 | Editorial | 0 comments

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To be one of the ten AUDIOPHILE AUDITION readers during June who will be receiving the two great jazz albums from Putumayo World Music, you need to register this month using our simple non-intrusive email-protected form Here. (We reviewed both jazz albums Here.)  12 jazz legends are heard on the Jazz album, including King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Mose Allison and Billie Holiday. Ten extraordinary female vocalists are on Women of Jazz, including Cassandra Wilson, Madeleine Peyroux and Stacy Kent. Many of the recordings have been remixed and remastered for enhanced fidelity. The ten winners of the two CDs will be announced here in July.

Here are the ten lucky winners of the Dado Moroni Blu-ray concert video from Resonance Records – which was our drawing/giveaway for May on the site: Jeffrey Tinkelman, Jersey City NJ; Marco Valtorta, Chapin SC; Gerald Porzio, Brooklyn NY; Ralph A. Mazzeo Jr., Port Chester NY; Greg Walters, Kingwood TX; Robert Beck, Memphis TN; Louis Fischer, Washington DC; Jann Dougherty, Henrico VA; Stefan Tedjakusuma, Castro Valley CA; Tom Grisham, Washington MO.

GUEST EDITORIAL:  Discs vs. Downloads

  by Mark Waldrep, Ph.D.

,  founder & CEO of AIX Records

Discs vs. Downloads
In my last newsletter I lauded the capabilities of the Blu-ray format as a platform for HD Music (with or without video accompaniment). I also mentioned that I believe the Blu-ray is the final spinning disc that consumers will ever have to put into a player. The reason is simple: the cloud. If you haven’t yet heard of cloud computing, here’s a quick explanation. The digital cloud is a limitless, personal storage locker that exists beyond the confines of your personal computer or portable device. It can contain media files of all types (music, videos, photos, documents etc) as well as application programs.

We are truly on the verge of a new era in personal computing. In fact, it’s already well underway. Thanks to the tremendous growth in the power and speed of wired and wireless networks, the diminishing costs of storage, the improvements in compression technologies for audio and video and the unprecedented popularity of tablets and portable connected devices, the shift to cloud computing makes sense. Or does it?

Anytime, Anywhere and Anything.

Imagine having instant access to every piece of important digital media anytime and anywhere. It sounds like a dream come true. No longer would you have to worry about hard drive crashes or losing track of where your favorite photos went to. You simply connect wirelessly to your "locker in the cloud", do a quick search for the particular piece of media that you looking for and presto you’re all set. Music, videos, photos, texts, audio notes and more will be permanently stored on a service providers servers for you to link to anytime. Similarly to NetFlix, you’ll simply pay a small monthly subscription charge. 

However, there’s a small problem. The quality of your media experience is dependent on the quality and speed of the network connection you happen to have at the particular time you want to play a particular piece of media. That means that the video or audio will most likely be compressed to the point just before you would contact the company and complain. It happened before when telephones were first introduced over 100 years ago and it still present in the kind of downloaded music you can get from iTunes and Rhapsody. There is a rush to the lowest possible quality because that’s where the mass market is…and the profits.

There is no way that a high definition audio or video file can be delivered to all of the users that want better quality. The network pipes, the lossless compression technologies and the limitations of portable devices just aren’t ready for high quality yet. And that’s if you’re a fan of 2-channel stereo. If you’re like me and want the ultimate quality is all 5.1 speakers…the day of cloud delivery is a long ways off. The labels and telecommunications companies don’t care about us.

The delivery of higher and higher quality media (including 4K and 8K 3D ultra HD video) is going to be a part of the market for quality conscious consumers. For us, discs like Blu-ray make sense. They are simple to make, inexpensive to replicate and familiar. Those attributes are going to matter for many years to come.

Not everyone is living the kind of lifestyle that will make cloud delivery of media a requirement.

No Clear Winner – We Need Discs AND Streaming

I have most of the latest gadgets…iPhone 4, iPad, 12-core Mac desktop computer, 65" 3D Panasonic Display, Oppo BDP-95 3D Blu-ray player with music server capabilties. I’m comfortable with all of them and there are times when one is better suited to the task at hand than another. I doubt that discs are going to go away anytime soon. And I’m sure that cloud deliveries will increase in popularity. After all, last year was the first time that Atlantic Records (part of the WB family of labels) sold more digital downloads than CDs. Times are changing…for the middle fo the marketplace. But for those that love the best, we get to wait. 

[Although Mark makes no mention of SACD (since his previous hi-res releases were DVD-Audio format) I agree with his above points. His DVD-A and Blu-ray releases nearly all include excellent videos of the performing artists, unlike the Blu-ray audio-only releases of Naxos & 2L.  He also has a separate website from his label, offering a variety of his hi-def audio/video downloads = iTrax.com. It also features an interesting reprint from the UK’s Hi-Fi News & Record Review titled "Download Debacle"…Ed.] 

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began in 1985 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. In September 1998 its site for programming information was expanded to the present Internet publication.
June 2011 is our 147th issue, and features improved navigation and enhanced appearance. We’re also publishing more and more disc reviews. All of them – usually well over 100 – 112 last month! – are added throughout the month as they are written and received, normally daily. The most recent reviews appear at the top of each Section Index. 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 lists all past reviews.
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