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February 2017
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Hi-Res Audio And Hi-Res Music Has Arrived!
Plus is CES still relevant for the high-end audio industry?
Article By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Hi-Res Audio And Hi-Res Music Has Arrived!

 

  There has been an abundance of articles and wrap-ups already written about CES 2017. Others are saying that high-end audio is either dead or highly reducing their presence at CES. Keep in mind decades ago CES was pretty much the only 'game in town' and nowadays there are more high-end audio shows worldwide than I can ever recall. Our humble industry has been growing strong in many countries, with important annual events such as HIGH END being one of the most important events in the world. It begs the question, is CES a viable event for high-end audio when there are many hi-fi shows worldwide?

Continuing our worldwide view, Japan and Poland also have audiophile events that are quite large and very well attended. Within the USA, in 2017 there will be more annual events and larger get-togethers than have ever occurred to the best of my memory. Sure there's AXPONA, LAAS, RMAF, Capital Audiofest and California Audio Show 2017, yet we also have quite a few others that are making their mark. Add in the many great events held by brick and mortar dealers, it is natural for an ebb and flow to occur. Since manufacturers need to carefully consider budgeting, it is normal to see some shows flourish as others eventually fall by the wayside. While I have no crystal ball, it seems self-evident that CES is one of the events that may be reserved for the larger companies as the main bulk of high-end audio manufacturers choose the more focused events versus the broad scale of CES.

 

 

I've been saying for many years, especially before the recent housing downturn, that high-end audio manufacturers must attend HIGH END in Munich. Seems to me CES is simply being replaced (to some extent) by the Munich show. CES has grown in so many directions that I find it interesting to know that in the same Las Vegas hallways you can talk to AARP, Simmons mattress, and perhaps a vacuum tube manufacturer. Is that something high-end audio wants to support? Maybe the CES is hinting to us that we're old farts with bad backs? Could care less either way about CES, it's just another show, of many, on the calendar. Frankly, CES is far less important, and relevant, a show for high-end audio than it ever has been.

 

Hi-Res Audio And Hi-Res Music Has Arrived!

 

Hi-Res Audio And Hi-Res Music
Perhaps the biggest announcements at CES 2017 were the wide acceptance and support for Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music. With CD getting huge support during its early years, and MP3 having a bit of an interesting history while stepping back in sound quality, today we have technology on many fronts to support a digital audio format that brings higher sound quality than CD. While the early days of DVD-Audio and Classic Records did offer higher than CD resolution DAD music titles, today we have more bandwidth and cheap memory storage than we did a decade ago. Since you're reading this article, I'm assuming you already know the details and that Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music is the natural evolution from the decades old lower resolution CD.

While the early efforts of DVD-Audio and DAD delivered excellent sounding music releases, there simply were not enough manufacturers and record labels aboard and so there were few music titles to bring it mainstream. During CES the DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group announced their support, with major recording labels, music streaming services, and hardware manufacturers to work together in promoting Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music to the mainstream. Today there are many thousands of Hi-Res Music titles available and as I type this TIDAL is the first to offer MQA. "With MQA, we go all the way back to the original master recording and capture the missing timing detail. We then use advanced digital processing to deliver it in a form that's small enough to download or stream" says the company.

 

The Wait For Technology And Bandwidth Is over
As a futurist, there always comes the realization that some ideas and concepts are simply not employable due to the limitations of supporting technologies. This was one of the factors with early Classic Records DAD releases, as back then cell phones (flip-style!) were simply not capable of Hi-Res Audio. Then there's the bandwidth issue many years ago as we were still using WAP sites to (loosely put) surf the web. In fact My Memo To The Industry article written back in June 2013 notes that, "Soon we are going to be getting mobile devices with the new Wolfson Microelectronics WM5110, the industry's first quad core High Definition (HD) Audio Processor System-on-a-Chip (SoC). This new highly-integrated, low power HD Audio Processor with advanced DSP feature set is designed to deliver HD Audio performance of 24-bit/192kHz for smartphones, tablet computers and portable multimedia devices."

 

 

Thus it was in waiting for the 'last inch' of content delivery with the ability to playback content that was one of the keys to my idea. As time marched onward, it then took great efforts to reach where we are today. Perhaps it may have seemed like a dream, a hope, a 'secret desire' back in June 2013 by Yours Truly, yet there is no doubt CES 2017 was the culmination of many 'moving parts' within the software and hardware industry. Everyone at the DEG deserves great respect and admiration for their efforts! Having DEG members invested in working together to further Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music is like 'being there' on the day DVD became the fastest selling and widely accepted modern consumer format (thanks in great part to, you guess it, the DEG).

 

It's About The Human Experience: Music
Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music is the latest evolution in delivering recording studio quality playback to enthusiasts worldwide. While the high-end audio industry continues to produce some of the best audio gear within the world, we now have DEG members who will soon be promoting overall better sound quality (than MP3 and CD). It has been many decades since recording labels and hardware manufacturers grouped together to broadly bring a new audio format to the attention of music enthusiasts. Hopefully their ability to bring effective marketing plans to fruition will pay dividends. You could have the best widget on Earth, yet if no one knows about your widget then odds are sales will be weak. Eventually your great invention will fail commercially. So let us hope millions of dollars are properly put to use within a strategic marketing plan, because singing only to high-end audio's choir is not viable on the scale we're talking about.

 

Media Blitz
Within my Memo To The Industry back in 2013 were also plans for a media blitz. Am very much looking forward to seeing ads on TV, online ads, movie theater promos, etc. No one knew of Beats headphones until famous musicians and others did their promo thing. We even heard the word "Beats" in many pop tunes. Exactly how corporate interests plan to work in unison to bring popularity in both name recognition and education concerning Hi-Res Audio on a relatively large scale has yet to make its presence felt, yet am sure we'll be seeing some interesting promos during 2017 and 2018. 

Will end this article by stealing my own writing from My Memo To The Industry:

"Again this is not my idea, this is ours. It is not for me alone to implement, we need everyone working together. And so am handing off this business plan/idea to you to do with it as you wish. It is now yours and you control its destiny. You can lead the charge. We as an industry can be 'cool' and relevant (again) in the eyes of mainstream consumers, like Beats is today... and hi-fi was back in the 1960s / 1970s. People will once again aspire to have high-end audio within their home. Our industry is undergoing a renaissance. We need to see the proverbial forest; not argue over who owns each and every tree.

Because for the first time in recorded music history true high resolution music, and equipment equal to the recording studio it was produced within, is now widely available to everyone... We want people to enjoy the music, faithfully, as the artists created. To be true to your music." As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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