This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

Jul 10

Written by: Lindsey M. Adler
7/10/2014 12:50 PM  RssIcon

HRA was on full display during the recent High Resolution Audio Listening Experience in New York. The event featured audio engineers playing personal selections for an audience of their peers and members of the media.
One of the producers I enjoyed hearing from most was Frank Filipetti, a six-time Grammy winner known for his work with Frank Zappa, among many others. My colleague Dennis Burger says he was a god in the 80s. He’s also one of the earliest audio engineers to embrace digital, which was apparent in his presentation.

It came as a shock for me to hear an engineer say that he thinks analog “sucks.” (My notes from the event include several exclamation points following this comment.) He went on to say, “Anyone who waxes poetic about analog wasn’t in the studio recording it." 
 Jungle City Studios played host to the High-Resolution Audio Listening Experience.
As a resident of Brooklyn, where being under 40 and owning a turntable is a major status symbol, my interest was especially piqued when he said, “[With vinyl], you get to the inner grooves, and it’s nothing but a bunch of sh**t.”

But his ultimate point is what resonated most: “There has never been a time where the consumer has been able to hear music in a better fashion than today.”

In other words, high-resolution audio (HRA) is a game changer from his perspective. “Never have we had the technology where you can hear in your home what we hear in the studio.”

While this event—hosted by the Recording Academy Producers and Engineers Wing, CEA, and DEG (Digital Entertainment Group)—was designed to show off the capabilities of HRA and spread the good word, I left feeling confident that listening to better quality music is sure to spread to the mass market. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’ And it is definitely already happening.

Residential AV integrators can do their part by being knowledgeable about the technology and different codecs used, as well as the services available—like HDTracks and Acoustic Sounds—and associated hardware and software designed to support HRA. Sharing this expertise with current and potential clients of all ages will help accelerate the process and all the equipment available to bring the best sound into your clients’ homes.

8 comment(s) so far...


Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

That is what is great about Hi-Res Audio, outside the debate on audio that will never end what your hear from the engineer, the producer and the artist is that it sounds like the wanted you to hear it. I think all music fans understand that, whatever the approach was, we all want to hear them say we "got it"

Having been at that launch event, and having listened to many files and many types of #hiresaudio devices I can say the experience is great. You can hear things you simply missed in other formats even those you liked. You will like them more.

Since this can be and is and will be even more available on phones and many other devices as well as some truly nice audio gear and since the labels plan on releasing a lot of material this is more than just for tweaks. Hey some of the stuff from the 80s and 90s sounds much better since we have learned a whole lot. Take a listen

By Robert Heiblim on   7/10/2014 3:40 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

Well said. I couldnt agree more. HiRes is a game changer!

By Frank Sterns on   7/10/2014 4:00 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

Let's just remember that the world around us is analog, as is our hearing. That's as high resolution as we get! So it's one thing to say that analog *recording formats* were poor compared to high-res digital formats (obviously not things like MP3). But that HR audio is still getting to your ears through analog circuits and speakers. Frank Filipetti knows that.

As to whether "the listener" knows or cares, I think that has always been the turf of a relatively small audience. Many people will listen to Sirius/XM all day long and think it's great!

By Eric Wenocur on   7/10/2014 4:25 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

No one's disputing that we hear in analog, or that speakers are analog. Mr. Filipetti was taking issue with analog playback formats (vinyl), and said nothing about ears. We also read in analog, but that's no reason to use an abacus over a computer. Mr. Filipetti is right about those inner grooves--and the outer ones are a challenge to get right, too, with all the inter-dependencies of tonearm, cartridge, platter, motor, room, preamp, etc. I'm looking forward to any improvement in audio, digital or not.

By Charles Thompson on   7/10/2014 5:52 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

This guy may have been "god" on the East coast, but I was "in the thick of it (in a technical sense) on the West coast during those glory years. Armin Steiner, Elliot Mazer, Steve Desper, etc. (thought I'd throw that in since name-dropping is what marketing anything seems to be about today. But I was chief design engineer for Quad-Eight and designed analog at its pinnacle. Try to get 140 dB of real dynamic range out of an analog recording console! As a distribution medium, digital (in its pure, uncompressed form) is a big improvement in noise floor but at the expense of granular distortion for low-level signals (the "space" in music). I won't go deeper into the debate. But for the masses (and for "selling it", the industry obsession) it's good - the masses will have generally better quality (but through phones and tablets - how did that even enter the discussion?). But for real music listeners, willing to invest in great speakers and quiet rooms, analog will not fade away! (Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" is particularly dear - it was the first direct-to-disc application of Compumix, my 1973 add-on console automation system)

By Bill Whitlock on   7/10/2014 5:59 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

To most people, analog (vinyl, etc.) doesn't make much sense. The industry has become about more convenience, rather than about more quality. I truly hope HRA takes off, and salespeople in the industry will make an attempt to demonstrate it to their clients. But saying "analog sucks" is ridiculous. **I hear ANALOG, don't you?

By Steve Brown on   7/11/2014 9:02 AM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

Unfortunately much the popular music sold as HRA files are suffering from severe dynamic range compression. So there is hardly any improvement over standard CD, and many time they sound worse than the best quality CD releases. The "loudness war" has resulted in huge amounts of distortion on almost all pop-music. So do not blame digital for the typical harsh sound you hear on modern music. Look up f.instance for some god insight into the problems.

By Peter Lyngdorf on   7/13/2014 12:45 PM

Re: This Engineer Favors High-Resolution Audio Over Analog, and So Should You

I agree with Peter Lyngdorf on the disappointment with many high-resolution audio files sounding as compressed as CDs (or worse). In my household, this has caused a type of buyer's inertia, where nobody's willing to part with their $25 for fear of not hearing any meaningful difference. We need a magazine or reviewer site that can identify the quality recordings and provide us with meaningful dynamic range information.

By Charles Thompson on   7/14/2014 3:05 PM

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