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  1. #1
    THC no THD!
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    Audiophile Recordings?

    Just finished a big article in June's Stereophile about the future of audiophile recordings, and it was kinda scary. The mainstream stuff seems to be recorded to sound as good as it can through a $150 boombox or one of those all in one horrors you see everywhere now, and the few labels that care about sound are in constant fear of making one bad release and going belly up that their A&R suffers, and Telarc, for instance, who BTW won 7 grammys last year doesn't even agree that they are an audiophile label or they are afraid to admit it. The big labels couldn't care less about appealing to us "golden ears" , they only care about the teenagers with a few bucks in their pockets who'll buy the latest Justin Timberlake release, or worse yet, Britney's stuff. (you get the picture, I know). Well now Best Buy has said they are pulling their DVD-A's, and their SACD's will be right behind them. I think both of these formats are about the best out there right now, and they are in jeopardy of being "shut down" too. Sony has said that their SACD sales are not what they had hoped for and the category is not growing enough to warrant keeping it alive. There is the new Dual Disc but it's too early to see how it's gonna do, nor have I tried one yet, cause so far, everything released on them SUCKS.

    Anyone have any GOOD news on the state of this matter?

  2. #2
    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    I guess you could call MoFi being back in business good news.

    But, really, audio is just like most products. Good enough is good enough for most and that's where most of the product will be targeted. Record companies are mostly there to make money and they make more money by pushing a mediocre release at a specifically targeted market with a big PR push than they do with audiophile quality recordings.

    I figure about the best we can hope for is once everything gets focused toward downloadable media, there may be a chance that for very little additional investments, companies could offer higher resolution versions of material at slightly higher prices. I don't really see any sort of disc based high resolution format taking off, although I could vary well be wrong.

  3. #3
    Musicaholic Forums Moderator ForeverAutumn's Avatar
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    I'm far from an audiophile, but I do appreciate good sound quality. I think that there are a couple of things contributing to poor SACD and DVD-A sales. The first being that you need the right equipment and, let's face it, most people don't have it. With more sets of speakers than I care to count; a CD player in almost every room in my house plus one in my office; a 600+ CD collection; an ipod; boom boxes; and portable CD players...I don't have anything that will play SACDs or DVD-As.

    Secondly, with a pretty busy life, most of my CD listening is done in my car or in my office. It's very seldom that I have the time to sit and just listen to something. You know, really listen. So, why spend the extra cash for an SACD recording when the time that I would spend listening to it on the main rig where an SACD player would reside, is probably less than 5% of my listening time.

    It's not that I don't want to hear music at the best quality that I can get, it's more that being able to do that just isn't realistic for me. And I probably care about the quality a whole lot more than the average person does.

    Having said all of that...I would hate to see SACDs and DVD-As disappear completely.

  4. #4
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    SACD and DVD-A are vanishing formats. The industry and the marketplace couldn't decide on a winner, so both formats lost. It will be interesting to see what happens with the next generation of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs...and whether the industry will keep making the same stupid mistake with their ridiculous format wars.

    Stay tuned.
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  5. #5
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Stereophiles article was dead on.

    Quote Originally Posted by J*E*Cole
    Just finished a big article in June's Stereophile about the future of audiophile recordings, and it was kinda scary. The mainstream stuff seems to be recorded to sound as good as it can through a $150 boombox or one of those all in one horrors you see everywhere now, and the few labels that care about sound are in constant fear of making one bad release and going belly up that their A&R suffers, and Telarc, for instance, who BTW won 7 grammys last year doesn't even agree that they are an audiophile label or they are afraid to admit it. The big labels couldn't care less about appealing to us "golden ears" , they only care about the teenagers with a few bucks in their pockets who'll buy the latest Justin Timberlake release, or worse yet, Britney's stuff. (you get the picture, I know). Well now Best Buy has said they are pulling their DVD-A's, and their SACD's will be right behind them. I think both of these formats are about the best out there right now, and they are in jeopardy of being "shut down" too. Sony has said that their SACD sales are not what they had hoped for and the category is not growing enough to warrant keeping it alive. There is the new Dual Disc but it's too early to see how it's gonna do, nor have I tried one yet, cause so far, everything released on them SUCKS.

    Anyone have any GOOD news on the state of this matter?
    Bad news;
    Sony screwed everyone when they decided not to release ALL their new titles on SACD. Now they are releasing almost no SACDs at all, so SACD has become the "Betamax" of audio.

    Good news!;

    DVD-Audio may have a future though. It's been incorperated into the CODEC of HD-DVD.

    When and IF DVD-HD comes to market you may be able to get videos of your favorite perfomances with lossless DVD-Audio sound. I am keeping my fingers crossed for this!
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  6. #6
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Hey I've got some good news... I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance...(booo!)

    I did actually manage to save a ton of money, I never invested a dime into either format. At the time of the introduction, it was clearly never a process to get out superior recordings. That could have been done at the CD level. It was more of a knee jerk reaction to piracy and the exponential growth of MP3 proliferation. I think even the format hopefuls knew that in the back of their mind. I didn't read the article in question but it seems the tide is ever rising against even the humble CD. I see no hope at all for easy access to well recorded pop material. Good thing I never spent a bundle on that ultimate system! Actually I'm finally ready to dive in and look for a new set of mains and a new (to me) 2 or 5 channel amp. I've got this dreadful feeling that a lot of what passes just fine on my current set up will be revealed for what it actually is. Compressed sound with abundant clipping.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    I actually think that one of the high res formats will live on as a niche format, more likely SACD because so many of the audiophile labels have circled their wagons around that format rather than DVD-A. Pretty much any hope for mainstream acceptance of SACD or DVD-A is pretty much dead. DualDisc could have been used for DVD-A, but the majority of multichannel soundtracks I've seen thus far on DualDiscs are encoded in Dolby Digital, while the "enhanced" stereo mixes included with some DualDiscs fall way short of the 96/24 DVD-A resolution.

    DualDisc is pretty much the future because it provides a single inventory disc format that allows for a huge variety of extras to get packed onto the DVD layer, while maintaining compatibility with CDs. The new Bruce Springsteen album was released only on DualDisc, and plenty of other new releases are in the pipeline. This is how SACD SHOULD HAVE been done, but Sony never pulled the trigger and standardized all of their releases around the SACD/CD hybrid format. The only hitch is whether the number of CD players that can't accept a DualDisc is big enough to create a market barrier.

    The problem with pop recordings is that quality has NEVER been priority number one with the record companies. Just thinking back to the vinyl heyday, tons of LPs were poorly pressed and/or mastered. At least with digital, you got a certain level of consistency between discs.

    With pop recordings, the vast majority of them will not get played back on high resolution home audio systems, so the recordings are not mixed and mastered to sound optimal with those types of systems. That will happen regardless of what occurs with the SACD and DVD-A formats. From the late-80s until about the late-90s, the most popular near field monitor used in mixing setups was the Yamaha NS-10. That monitor was not used because it sounded great or had a neutral timbre. The NS-10 was popular because its tonal characteristics provided the best measure for how a recording would sound on car audio and portable systems. If a pop recording monitored on that setup sounds great with a high resolution system, that would be more by accident than by design. Sad but true, the recording industry is responding to demand, and that demand is music on the go, music played through mini-systems, through car audio systems, through ear buds.

    But, this process of optimizing the sound around how consumers are likeliest to playback a recording is nothing new. In the 70s, the majority of pop recordings were monitored through JBL monitors. Is it any coincidence that a lot of rock music from that era sounds at its best when played through vintage JBL floorstanders?

    Hate to sound hopeless, but I think that so long as the recording studios continue to saddle down high resolution formats with these inane copy protection restrictions, they will forever short-circuit any potential out there for high resolution audio. Even though DVD-A will live another day on the upcoming HD-DVD format, I personally think that the more promising development with HD-DVD and Blu-ray is that both formats have Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD as the mandatory audio formats (doubt that DVD-A is a mandatory format). Both DD+ and DTS-HD have backwards compatibility with existing DD and DTS decoders, and they are scalable (can add channels, vary the compression level, and increase the resolution) with the capability to play in lossless mode.

    Whether or not any music ever comes out in the lossless DD+ and DTS-HD formats is the big question. Given the music industry's reluctance to embrace any kind of open high res format, they seem content to limit multichannel audio to DD, as most DualDiscs currently have it.

  8. #8
    THC no THD!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    Hey I've got some good news... I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance...(booo!)

    I did actually manage to save a ton of money, I never invested a dime into either format. At the time of the introduction, it was clearly never a process to get out superior recordings. That could have been done at the CD level. It was more of a knee jerk reaction to piracy and the exponential growth of MP3 proliferation. I think even the format hopefuls knew that in the back of their mind. I didn't read the article in question but it seems the tide is ever rising against even the humble CD. I see no hope at all for easy access to well recorded pop material. Good thing I never spent a bundle on that ultimate system! Actually I'm finally ready to dive in and look for a new set of mains and a new (to me) 2 or 5 channel amp. I've got this dreadful feeling that a lot of what passes just fine on my current set up will be revealed for what it actually is. Compressed sound with abundant clipping.

    jc
    Interesting point you made that superior recordings CAN be made at the CD level, because I have plenty of plain old CD's that sound so much better that plenty of other plain old CDs I have. If the labels would even do more of this I could be happy. BTW, what does account for the vast differences in recording quality among so many CDs? I have noticed some artists consintently release only quality recordings while others consistently release mediocre ones. For instance, last year I discovered a new artist (to me anyway) who is Mark Knopfler. I bought an early one of his and was so impressed with the music and recording quality that I bought another and another and another, and they were all equally well recorded. Now I'm a big U2 fan, but I think most of their releases are made like the Timberlakes and Spears' of the world, and made to sound good through the systems that their fans use, like boomboxes, and cheap all in ones, etc... Am I imagining things?

  9. #9
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Yes, it was depressing getting the new U2 album

    Quote Originally Posted by J*E*Cole
    Now I'm a big U2 fan, but I think most of their releases are made like the Timberlakes and Spears' of the world, and made to sound good through the systems that their fans use, like boomboxes, and cheap all in ones, etc... Am I imagining things?
    And finding out that it was mastered for car stereos. The quality was so far off it's almost unlistenable in my home audio rig. Oh well, another CD religated to the car. Diana Krall on the other hand is recorded and mastered so well that she magically appears in front of me when I put on her CD.
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  10. #10
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffcin
    And finding out that it was mastered for car stereos. The quality was so far off it's almost unlistenable in my home audio rig. Oh well, another CD religated to the car. Diana Krall on the other hand is recorded and mastered so well that she magically appears in front of me when I put on her CD.
    I think after U2 started working with Brian Eno, they've way overproduced their albums. On some albums like Achtung, Baby, that kind of highly processed sound worked to the music's advantage. But, with stripped down arrangements and more of a straight rock trio type of music, the murky and compressed sound that they've been going with just doesn't work well. With Boy and War, the sound had more immediacy to it. Too bad it's been over 20 years since they made anything with that kind of straight forward sound.

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