Nov 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT SOUND
The audiophile label Chesky Records is pushing the quality envelope with its one-to-one copies of its 192/24 master discs. David and Norman Chesky also run an HD download site, HDtracks, which offers master-quality 192/24 and 96/24 albums ranging from Stevie Wonder to the Grateful Dead to Madonna.
“HDtracks has a simple premise—to give people the highest-quality resolution available today. It’s for people who listen to music attentively. HDtracks is not for people who listen to music while they vacuum or rollerblade, or whatever. That’s not our market. An HDtracks high-resolution file is the best-sounding format on the planet because, first of all, when you download this into a computer, you don’t have a problem with a silver spinning disc [like a CD]. When you spin a silver disc you have a jitter problem that corrupts the data, and you also have error correction from the laser that’s reading it. We don’t have that. When you download a hi-res file from HDtracks and put it in the computer with a program like Amarra, JRiver, Media Monkey or Pure Music, you put the file in RAM, so there are no moving parts. This is the record player of tomorrow. And with 192/24, it’s like we’ve given you a clone of the master tape.
“It’s been easy to convince bands to put their music up on HDtracks because no musician spends seven months in a recording studio slaving over EQs, echo returns and things like that to have their art be played on two five-dollar plastic computer speakers. So we’re giving mastering engineers, producers and artists a vehicle to show off their art. We went through this lull and everybody wanted cheap MP3s, but with this technology, people can rediscover music they loved and get involved with it again in a deeper way.”
Dennis Leonard is both a music mixer who plies his trade on live hi-res audio and video webcasts at TRI Studios in San Rafael, Calif., and an Oscar-nominated mixer sound supervisor who works out of Skywalker Sound.
“The most horrible part of where music has gone is that ‘digital’ is a buzzword, and because MP3 is digital, we have a generation of kids that are putting in earbuds, listening to ridiculously compressed low-resolution material, and are excited that it’s digital. I think their excitement comes from the fact that it’s loud all the time. If you do the math on 44.1/16-bit, there’s so much missing information that our analog brains have to fill in the spaces, so the relaxation one could have listening to music has been extracted by the fact that we have to compensate mentally.
“But let’s be hopeful and call this the end of the first wave of digital. Now there’s been a tremendous renaissance in vacuum tubes, finding and reviving old classic mics and compressors, a plethora of manufacturers making good copies of old gear, and people using these devices in combination with high-resolution digital. I think we’re achieving something that wasn’t previously achieved.
“What’s going on at TRI is really great for a sound-head, because it’s this great combination of the hi-res [audio and video] and live performance and live mixing—there’s nothing like live mixing if you can ride the surf wave and mix instantly, with no rewind. There are a lot of people around who can do that quite well, but do it in a studio environment with an API console—a classic analog desk—and using classic analog mics, mic pre’s and compressors, great reverb boxes. That’s as good as it gets as far as I’m concerned.”
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