Is HD & Multi-Channel Audio Dead? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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We have three formats for HD multichannel audio, and yet there's nothing but a trickle coming out. It's absurd. For high fidelity, I'm spinning records. I can't say that I mind so much, but I've got a great 7.1 system that seems to be only good for watching movies. The rest of the time, I've got the turntable set to 7-channel stereo.

This is really disappointing.

SACDs are coming out in a trickle.
People mostly don't even know what DVD-Audio is, and there seem to be fewer releases of those than SACDs.
Blu-ray audio is in its infancy, and what seems to be happening is almost absolute insistence that Blu-ray be an audio-visual-only medium, relgating BD Audio to oblivion.
Downloading wouldn't be bad for burning onto DVD-Audio, but the vendors don't seem to have any HD selections or anything in multi-channel.

The only thing that seems to be doing well are MP3s with sound quality worse than CDs. Is this it? Are we stuck with lo-fi or old records for the rest of our lives?
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post #2 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 06:47 AM
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Yes we do. Common way of listening music - via earbuds on the run, does not requite multichannel or high fidelity. Sorry.
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post #3 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 06:52 AM
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Nothing is "Dead" as long as there are people using and enjoying it. There's an abundance of great music available in various formats to enjoy, and nothing stopping you from doing so.
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post #4 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 06:58 AM
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I don't see your problem with Blu-Ray being an A/V experience. I have 5 Blu-Ray concert discs that I really enjoy. There are a lot more that I would love to pick up when I get the extra cash. I actually prefer the A/V aspect as it makes it more "concert" like.

Have you tried using the fake surround sound modes on your AVR? It isn't the same as a true surround disc, but it is much better than all channel stereo it most instances. Most AVRs have a few choices to try out.

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post #5 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbyrnes View Post

I don't see your problem with Blu-Ray being an A/V experience. I have 5 Blu-Ray concert discs that I really enjoy.

I don't get it either. I have 20+ Blu-ray concerts and listen to them only way more than watching them.
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post #6 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 08:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mbyrnes View Post

I don't see your problem with Blu-Ray being an A/V experience. I have 5 Blu-Ray concert discs that I really enjoy. There are a lot more that I would love to pick up when I get the extra cash. I actually prefer the A/V aspect as it makes it more "concert" like.

Have you tried using the fake surround sound modes on your AVR? It isn't the same as a true surround disc, but it is much better than all channel stereo it most instances. Most AVRs have a few choices to try out.

For classical music, opera, and ballet, I suppose that would be alright. What's stopping me there is my ignorance and the prices. I enjoy some classical music, but I don't know a lot about it, and I have no idea if the forty or fifty bucks I have to drop for a Blu-ray opera or ballet will be money well spent (I live in Korea so things like this are a bit more pricey than for most of the rest of the world). The only offerings I have found in stores so far are operas and ballets about which I know nothing. If it was something with which I was comfortable and familiar like The Pirates of Penzance or Candide, I'd probably buy, but growing up without a theater left me culturally deprived to the extent that most of it is esoteric.

For rock and pop and such, I usually don't like live performances. There are exceptions, but what's available so far hasn't really turned me on. I almost bought a Leonard Cohen Blu-ray yesterday, but for as much as I like him without interpretation via Jenifer Warnes, I don't think I'd listen to it very much.

I don't like any of the fake surround modes provided by my Denon AVR at least for music. The modes can be really good for movies sometimes. Even 7-channel stereo when listening to vinyl is a compromise because I lose the pure analog for the digitally processed advantage of sound from all speakers. Yes, I can hear the difference. It's not quite enough for me to require the pure analog, though I think if I get around to hooking up my reel-to-reel player again, I'll insist on pure analog stereo.

It looks like I spoke a little too soon. I searched for HD downloads and found:

https://www.hdtracks.com

They have a lot of 24-96 downloads in stereo and mono FLAC. What I'm really hoping for though is 5.1 and 7.1 @ 24-192 that I can burn to Blu-ray since disks have finally come down to reasonable prices. My biggest problem is that now I need to somehow become educated in classical and jazz to make selections that will please me.

I've just been hoping that multi-channel HD audio would become standard for recording, but a lot of masters these days are done in pathetic CD Redbook at 16-44.1. I've even been hoping that with increasing storage on portable music players that HD FLAC files would become typically possible if not standard, but so far I haven't hear anything about this. There's probably a player out there that does it. I guess I'll have to look. For the most part, however, I am content to listen to my music at home on my lovely Denon/Klipsch system, and for portable music, I'm content with my Walkman.
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post #7 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 08:13 AM
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also check out http://www.2l.no/ and http://www.itrax.com/

Boo!
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post #8 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 09:54 AM
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+1 for the high-res FLAC downloads from 2L, there's a pretty substantial catalog of them available. Their BD/SACD combo packs are pure audiophile heaven, and the SACD releases are too.
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post #9 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to those who have responded so far. I see now that HD multi-channel audio is very slowly picking up steam. Now that I have choices, I see that my wallet is dead, and the prices are a bit high right now at least for music that I have to plunge into mostly blindly. The Nordic Sound looks especially tempting, though my wife an I are partial to vocals, especially by talented women.

I would be interested in suggestions for particular titles that are especially good in both classical and jazz. I am most especially interested in 5.1 and 7.1 versions.
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post #10 of 28 Old 12-23-2010, 05:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanwescoat View Post

I would be interested in suggestions for particular titles that are especially good in both classical and jazz. I am most especially interested in 5.1 and 7.1 versions.

1. There are lots of reviews of SACDs on www.sa-cd.net
2. There are lots of recommendations in the "Recordings in the Round" supplements to my columns at the link in my sig.

Kal Rubinson

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Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile
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post #11 of 28 Old 12-25-2010, 09:58 AM
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Yes, there is a future ...

As this generation ages, has more disposable income, and multi-channel home theater grows there will be a movement back towards quality of audio in the listening experience rather than just convenience. I would not expect SACD to grow as a format however. Mulit-channel music most certainly will move towards a downloadable format (flac perhaps) - streaming and at this point be better integrated with blu-ray. This is more an issue with bandwidth - through put than technology. Tom Petty really is taking the lead with this over the past several years and I certainly think he and the folks he works with have a clear sense of a vision for the future.

Mike
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post #12 of 28 Old 12-25-2010, 10:36 AM
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Yes, there is a future ...

As this generation ages, has more disposable income, and multi-channel home theater grows there will be a movement back towards quality of audio in the listening experience rather than just convenience. I would not expect SACD to grow as a format however. Mulit-channel music most certainly will move towards a downloadable format (flac perhaps) - streaming and at this point be better integrated with blu-ray. This is more an issue with bandwidth - through put than technology. Tom Petty really is taking the lead with this over the past several years and I certainly think he and the folks he works with have a clear sense of a vision for the future.

Mike

Consumers under 30 y.o. are the target for music industry. They buy most of the music. At the same time they are less likely interested in high resolution and surround music. So I do not expect broad adoption of new technologies by major labels. It is not worth their effort. Making good surround record is more expensive, but you can't expect teens to buy it for much more than regular stereo. Mid-aged folks just do not buy enough music. See relevant stats here for instance: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/11/bpi_stats
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post #13 of 28 Old 12-25-2010, 03:32 PM
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Despite the obvious benefits of discrete MCH mixes over matrixed DSP algorithms (and my not inconsiderable--relative to my disposable income--expenditure for SACDs, DVD-As and other MCH audio discs), I've come to the conclusion that the future of MCH audio lies in DSP improvements rather than in specific MCH formats. I don't believe the latter will disappear entirely (and I will continue to peruse them for things I like) but I find myself using DLPII Music a lot more than before (which was almost never, to be honest)--especially since I've revisited the changes I can make to its initial settings in my receiver. I do it case by case--some recordings and genres, to me, clearly benefit more than others--but with some judicious tweaking of settings, I've gotten (again, to me) some decent results with two obvious benefits: one) I can expand my MCH listening to a significant degree as I have far more 2 channel than MCH discs and two) I don't need to spend any money to do so.

As I contemplate upgrading my receiver (HDMI would be nice), I am wrestling with the following question: do I also buy a new DVD-A player (I don't have all that many of those--maybe 30) with HDMI to get the full benefit of the Audyssey/MCACC/Trinnov/etc. that will be featured on my next receiver OR do I rely on Audyssey/etc. to work enough magic on the lossy tracks on my DVD-As? (I have a PS3 with SACD capability already, so I don't need an HDMI SACD player--and I have resolved the potential noisy operation issue of the PS3, thanks to a Bluetooth remote and sufficiently long HDMI cable).

I do think, as I get older and my hearing inexorably declines, I will soon approach the point where the clear gain of MCH playback (even matrixed, where it sounds good to me), even in lossy format, will outweigh my ability to distinguish the difference in resolution between lossy and lossless, especially with improving DSP. After many, many years of chasing the "best" format, speaker placements, room treatments, gear and so on (that I can afford, naturally), I'm ready to sit back and enjoy the music itself. After all, that is why we are in this hobby in the first place, right?
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post #14 of 28 Old 12-26-2010, 03:46 PM
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I think the question "is Multichannel Audio dead?" has been answered somewhat since the Oppo BDP-83 came into existence, how may waited to purchase their Blu-Ray player until it was universal, I hopped on board with the Oppo at that point.
Even more satisfying is watching Denon, Marantz and more come out with Dvd Audio / SACD Blu-Ray players. I can't help but smile when walking into a Walmart and seeing a Sony Home Theater In A Box with the SACD logo printed on the side.

How much more engineering and cost is required to keep these DVD Audio / SACD capable players accessible to those of us that support the formats, it can not be that much, and what a waste not to with the advent of Lossless 7.1 formats being a part of the Blu-ray standard.

Of course we all hope for more DVD Audio / SACD releases, along with 7.1 uncompressed music etc. I guess we can speak with our wallets both with hardware and software purchases.
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post #15 of 28 Old 12-26-2010, 04:47 PM
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There is hope.
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post #16 of 28 Old 12-31-2010, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanwescoat View Post

For classical music, opera, and ballet, I suppose that would be alright. What's stopping me there is my ignorance and the prices. I enjoy some classical music, but I don't know a lot about it, and I have no idea if the forty or fifty bucks I have to drop for a Blu-ray opera or ballet will be money well spent (I live in Korea so things like this are a bit more pricey than for most of the rest of the world). The only offerings I have found in stores so far are operas and ballets about which I know nothing. If it was something with which I was comfortable and familiar like The Pirates of Penzance or Candide, I'd probably buy, but growing up without a theater left me culturally deprived to the extent that most of it is esoteric.

For rock and pop and such, I usually don't like live performances. There are exceptions, but what's available so far hasn't really turned me on. I almost bought a Leonard Cohen Blu-ray yesterday, but for as much as I like him without interpretation via Jenifer Warnes, I don't think I'd listen to it very much.

I don't like any of the fake surround modes provided by my Denon AVR at least for music. The modes can be really good for movies sometimes. Even 7-channel stereo when listening to vinyl is a compromise because I lose the pure analog for the digitally processed advantage of sound from all speakers. Yes, I can hear the difference. It's not quite enough for me to require the pure analog, though I think if I get around to hooking up my reel-to-reel player again, I'll insist on pure analog stereo.

It looks like I spoke a little too soon. I searched for HD downloads and found:

https://www.hdtracks.com

They have a lot of 24-96 downloads in stereo and mono FLAC. What I'm really hoping for though is 5.1 and 7.1 @ 24-192 that I can burn to Blu-ray since disks have finally come down to reasonable prices. My biggest problem is that now I need to somehow become educated in classical and jazz to make selections that will please me.

I've just been hoping that multi-channel HD audio would become standard for recording, but a lot of masters these days are done in pathetic CD Redbook at 16-44.1. I've even been hoping that with increasing storage on portable music players that HD FLAC files would become typically possible if not standard, but so far I haven't hear anything about this. There's probably a player out there that does it. I guess I'll have to look. For the most part, however, I am content to listen to my music at home on my lovely Denon/Klipsch system, and for portable music, I'm content with my Walkman.

Do you ever get to Hong Kong Island? There was a music store in the Park Lane Hotel complex I used to stay at (2005-2007) that sold a lot of multichannel SACD/DVD AUDIO discs. Sorry it has been a while but it was a pretty busy store at that time. It had a wide selection from opera to rock.

Incheon to HK Island is only about a 2-3 hr flight and it is a great weekend getaway - if you have the time.

Bob
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post #17 of 28 Old 01-01-2011, 04:56 PM
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As someone that has dedicated the last ten years of my life and way too much money to the recording and production of high definition, surround music products, I have seen a continuous increase and awareness in this segment of the market. Yes, we had the format war between SACD and DVD-Audio and other impediments to success of better quality audio (the lack of support by the major labels and the ubiquity of MP3 and portable audio), but there are many, many individuals that seek out and enjoy the fruits of our labors and others (2L, Linn etc).

When you get a chance to experience a new high definition, surround recording through a great playback system, there is no other format that comes close to capturing the intimacy, warmth, detail and immediacy of well performed music...regardless of the genre. And yes, new productions of your favorite rock bands or artists are not going to be done according to the rigors of HD production. It is called the music business and they've got other issues to contend with.

Where I feel the market had stumbled is in the inconsistency of the offerings available regardless of format. The dramatic improvement that can be achieved when the production process is all high definition all the way through is rare. You mention the downloadable tracks from HDTracks as an example of better quality via files that are prepared at 96 kHz/24-bits. While the track may sound better than CDs or vinyl, they are no better than the original master tapes, which are decidedly standard definition with upper frequency and dynamic limitations that pale in comparison to current recording potential using high definition equipment.

Simply putting a classic track (pop, jazz, classical etc) from the 60's, 70's 80's or 90's into a 96 kHz/24-bit PCM bucket doesn't magically transform the fidelity (dynamic range or frequency response) of the original to the new high definition specs. So when people hear these so-called "HD Tracks", they aren't that impressed and figure that everyone is playing the same marketing game.

I've done spectral analysis on most of the releases that claim to be HD, including DVD-R supplied files at 176.4, and sadly most lack any additional frequency or dynamic range. I've even seen two differently priced downloads of the same track (with the higher sampling rate at a premium charge) be exactly the same file, sample for sample they were identical. This fraudulent/misleading practice only serves to alienate those seeking better music reproduction.

There is lots of great music available in SACD, DVD-Audio and now Blu-ray (with or without video)....if the original productions are actually done using high definition equipment, the production procedures (including the post production process) maintain strict, no-compromise standards and the delivery is in fact high definition.

I receive phone calls and emails daily from customers lauding the things that AIX Records has been doing for 10 years now. It's a labor of love but the results firmly establish that audio production can be dramatically better than it is today.

Ear buds and headphones are wonderful additions to the world of music enjoyment but so is high definition, surround music. Just make sure you're experiencing the real thing.
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post #18 of 28 Old 01-02-2011, 06:26 AM
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As someone that has dedicated the last ten years of my life ...
Dr. AIX, I can attest to the superb quality of your HD productions and downloads available on iTrax. Thank you for all your work.

Multi channel (mc) surround music is alive and well. The format choices, however, have created confusion and are a commercial nightmare. Luckily, we are still getting mc music. I see a migration of mc music to blu ray (bd). This has a large consumer base and may become commercially viable. I still buy SACD or DVDa and I am quite pleased that many BD players now include these formats.

I prefer to rip mc music to my computer. It took a little effort to build a system that gives me this capability. ...and "yes" the quality of downloads from a variety of vendors in inconsistent. But, the good outweighs the bad. Converting DVDa to PCM-WAV format works great. The program I use to do this promises to include BD audio conversion sometime in 2011.

I am not sure if it was Kal who wrote this, but I read an interview with a few record company execs who said the format is irrelevant to them. They have a library now of mc high def music and it can be released on any format that promises a decent return on investment.

Marcus

Our Personal Website with movie and music catalog pages.

Marcus & LaMona Home Theater
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post #19 of 28 Old 01-22-2011, 05:22 PM
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Perhaps one of the reasons we are not seeing more BD Audio releases with lossless audio (whether Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master) is because they are so easily ripped. At least SACD's still present somewhat of a technical challenge to ripping but with such a small segment of the consumer market having players with SACD capability (PS3 owners are probably the largest segment here) it's hardly a major commercial opportunity.
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post #20 of 28 Old 01-26-2011, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TS45 View Post
I think the question "is Multichannel Audio dead?" has been answered somewhat since the Oppo BDP-83 came into existence, how may waited to purchase their Blu-Ray player until it was universal, I hopped on board with the Oppo at that point.
Even more satisfying is watching Denon, Marantz and more come out with Dvd Audio / SACD Blu-Ray players. I can't help but smile when walking into a Walmart and seeing a Sony Home Theater In A Box with the SACD logo printed on the side.

How much more engineering and cost is required to keep these DVD Audio / SACD capable players accessible to those of us that support the formats, it can not be that much, and what a waste not to with the advent of Lossless 7.1 formats being a part of the Blu-ray standard.

Of course we all hope for more DVD Audio / SACD releases, along with 7.1 uncompressed music etc. I guess we can speak with our wallets both with hardware and software purchases.
The real answer isn't in the players available, but the recordings that are being made, or not made. It's like Lp's. I've got 3,500, and there are a lot of new turntables out there, mostly very expensive. But I just read that last year, 2.8 million Lp's were sold. Even though it's claimed that it's more than the year earlier, a few years ago, the number was 6 million.

If these recordings cease to be made by the big players, the small ones, no matter how good, won't do enough to stop the decline. It's sad, but true.
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post #21 of 28 Old 02-03-2011, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. AIX View Post

As someone that has dedicated the last ten years of my life and way too much money to the recording and production of high definition, surround music products, I have seen a continuous increase and awareness in this segment of the market. Yes, we had the format war between SACD and DVD-Audio and other impediments to success of better quality audio (the lack of support by the major labels and the ubiquity of MP3 and portable audio), but there are many, many individuals that seek out and enjoy the fruits of our labors and others (2L, Linn etc).

When you get a chance to experience a new high definition, surround recording through a great playback system, there is no other format that comes close to capturing the intimacy, warmth, detail and immediacy of well performed music...regardless of the genre. And yes, new productions of your favorite rock bands or artists are not going to be done according to the rigors of HD production. It is called the music business and they've got other issues to contend with.

Where I feel the market had stumbled is in the inconsistency of the offerings available regardless of format. The dramatic improvement that can be achieved when the production process is all high definition all the way through is rare. You mention the downloadable tracks from HDTracks as an example of better quality via files that are prepared at 96 kHz/24-bits. While the track may sound better than CDs or vinyl, they are no better than the original master tapes, which are decidedly standard definition with upper frequency and dynamic limitations that pale in comparison to current recording potential using high definition equipment.

Simply putting a classic track (pop, jazz, classical etc) from the 60's, 70's 80's or 90's into a 96 kHz/24-bit PCM bucket doesn't magically transform the fidelity (dynamic range or frequency response) of the original to the new high definition specs. So when people hear these so-called "HD Tracks", they aren't that impressed and figure that everyone is playing the same marketing game.

I've done spectral analysis on most of the releases that claim to be HD, including DVD-R supplied files at 176.4, and sadly most lack any additional frequency or dynamic range. I've even seen two differently priced downloads of the same track (with the higher sampling rate at a premium charge) be exactly the same file, sample for sample they were identical. This fraudulent/misleading practice only serves to alienate those seeking better music reproduction.

There is lots of great music available in SACD, DVD-Audio and now Blu-ray (with or without video)....if the original productions are actually done using high definition equipment, the production procedures (including the post production process) maintain strict, no-compromise standards and the delivery is in fact high definition.

I receive phone calls and emails daily from customers lauding the things that AIX Records has been doing for 10 years now. It's a labor of love but the results firmly establish that audio production can be dramatically better than it is today.

Ear buds and headphones are wonderful additions to the world of music enjoyment but so is high definition, surround music. Just make sure you're experiencing the real thing.

So is there a list of the superior recordings that are hi-def from beginning to end? Can we start one?
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post #22 of 28 Old 02-06-2011, 08:38 AM
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There is no list as far as I'm aware. My download site...itrax.com, is the only site that restricts the tracks that are available to those that are really recorded in HD from the time of the original recording. You won't find "Kind of Blue" or "The Grateful Dead" among the offerings but you can rest assured that everything on the site has enhanced frequency and dynamic range compared to standard definition recordings (even those parading as "HD Tracks").

It is my wish that every track include a "provenance" listing...skin to a piece of fine art that lists how the tracks were recorded, when they were recorded, how the post production process was done, whether they were "mastered" with limiting/compression and whether they ever left the digital domain.

There is another long discussion about the move to multichannel...I personally cannot listen to stereo after having spent 10 years doing surround music.
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post #23 of 28 Old 02-08-2011, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr. AIX View Post


There is another long discussion about the move to multichannel...I personally cannot listen to stereo after having spent 10 years doing surround music.

Just out of curiosity, then, do you utilize any of the various forms of matrix MCH settings on non-MCH recordings or do you restrict your listening to discrete MCH recordings?
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post #24 of 28 Old 02-08-2011, 12:14 PM
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All of our titles contain multiple discrete mixes. There is standard 2-channel stereo mix at HD resolution (96 khZ/24-bits), a 5.1 surround mix from the "stage" perspective and a 5.1 surround mix from the "audience" perspective. We do not use any matrix tools such as PLII or PLIIx.

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post #25 of 28 Old 02-08-2011, 05:11 PM
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Ovation asked about "your listening", meaning your own personal listening approach or method when you are confronted with stereo recordings, given your statement about how "I personally cannot listen to stereo." Not about the approach you take with your business.

Unless, you're telling us you only listen to your own recordings and those of others which offer 5.1 surround mixes?

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post #26 of 28 Old 02-13-2011, 06:21 PM
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Being a complete HD audio neophyte, what equipment is required to play real HD music, like what AIX distributes? I just bought a new Pioneer VSX-1120 receiver and am looking at a new Bluray player. Anything I need to be aware of to support HD audio?
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post #27 of 28 Old 02-13-2011, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ttyR2 View Post

Being a complete HD audio neophyte, what equipment is required to play real HD music, like what AIX distributes? I just bought a new Pioneer VSX-1120 receiver and am looking at a new Bluray player. Anything I need to be aware of to support HD audio?

Have you looked at the various Oppo offerings for BD and multichannel music?

With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine.
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post #28 of 28 Old 02-13-2011, 07:39 PM
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I listen to surround music in my automobile when playing discs (a 2005 Acura TL with an ELS DVD-Audio system) or just tune in standard broadcast audio...although I don't spend a lot of time driving and usually tune in NPR.

I don't have the opportunity to listen to music as much as I would like...it's seems like it's always associated with a project.

I don't use PL II or other DSP based extractions to expand stereo to surround. I have to have the real thing.
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