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February 2018
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Hacking Hi-Res Audio
Tech savvy music lovers unite... and win!
Article By Steven R. Rochlin

 

Hacking Hi-Res Audio Tech savvy music lovers unite... and win!

 

  Was thinking of writing a humorous article about CES titled "A Tale Of Zombies And Blood" concerning Las Vegas' power outage. It would go something like this: CES' main convention center loses power, and thus thousands of Zombie tech journalists needing to quench their 'need-to-feed' suddenly shuffle up to the Venetian High-End exhibits and.... Yet even a historic power outage at the LVCC failed to bring journalists into the Venetian's high-end audio exhibits at CES. No blood, no brain-thirst... nothing. There was a magnificent main hall exhibit by The DEG featuring Hi-Res Audio partners, PMP / DAP gear, etc, and didn't see much about that in the press. Did you?

 

BTW, guitar and CE brand Gibson chose to show at CES 2018 and not NAMM. Not sure what that means, but it was interesting to note.

 

One major CE band's keynote address featured a nice single sound bar capable of some type of 'multi-channel surround sound'. Barely even a nod to Hi-Res Audio even though they're also a major music recording label. Other main keynote addresses had pretty much nothing in the audioscape as best I can recall. Industry insider magazines were touting VR, AR, and yet another go at multi-room audio by _____. And of course more soundbars.

 

Technics SL-1000R Turntable

 

The big announcements concerning our cool section of CE were Technics SL-1000R turntable, JBL's L100 Classic loudspeaker system, and Klipsch's Capitol Heresy III Special Edition horn loudspeaker. Reissues. Am sure there was more, yet i received far more press releases before RMAF 2017 than i did before (or after, combined) for CES 2018. Looks more like the state-of-the-music industry is celebrating past successes, as they just rock 'n' roll old 'back catalog' and wring it out for every USD, Euro, and perhaps Bitcoin they can. We all love reissues, so this is not a complaint. Simply a journalistic observation, and we featured the big CES retro-new gear launches within Enjoy the Music.com's January 2018 Industry News page.

Please play the below video and keep reading. Thx! :)

 

Internet Music
We can all agree that music via the Internet really came into play via 'hacking' of sorts. Napster gave us a world of music to download simply for the asking. CompuServe gave us the first legal download in June 1994 with Aerosmith's "Head First", and that took nearly an hour or so for me to download via then modern 56kbs modem. Enjoy the Music.com very briefly used some tweak script to stream music on our homepage without the need for a plug-in (a first for the web) in 1998 as a proof of concept ("What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong). Computer code monkeys and geeks (that's me in the mirror) wish we could do things legally, yet the slow adoption of laws keeping up with modern technological advances was once again causing trouble. Big business is simply not able to keep up with technical possibilities, where small start-ups tend to take hold (until being bought out by Apple, MicroSoft, Alphabet, etc).

Fortunately, this has all been resolved today and you can enjoy uncompressed Hi-Res Audio digital streaming music legally. Or can you?

 

Why Discuss The Obvious? Because We Care About The Music
My phone rings, because e-mail communication can be messy... and suddenly find myself within a discussion of 'man-in-the-middle attack'. While different than the classical Wikipedia definition of man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) that secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other... No my friends, it appears that a certain audio format is not quite that. Can you guess the new lossy compressed format? 

Of course Sony / Philips made a small fortune on inventing, producing, and licensing the Compact Disc. But then again CD was new, and a true move forward in audio technology at the time. Note i said "audio technology" and not "sound quality". It took time to develop both software encoding and hardware to play the new Compact Disc format. Said digital format was able to achieve better sound quality as time, and DAC chips, were developed over the years.

Nowadays, all you need is a proprietary CODEC (encoder / decoder) and a way to 'hijack' whatever device the file is playing. Not sure what to call MQA, the jury is still out, yet am sure when it comes to online music streaming someone is trying to make bank on a solution that's looking for a problem.

Today? Why use already known-good encoding / decoding that is widely available for free (FLAC) when you can invent a complicated, perhaps proprietary, or rebirth defunct tech, and make it your own so you can siphon off a bit of cream (money) off the top. Do we really need yet another audio format, lossy or lossless? Netflix is streaming 1080 video with surround sound audio every day to millions of people. Dare we mention that far higher bandwidth 4k is also available on Netflix?

 

 

So it's really hard for me to 'get' why there's a 'problem' with using far lower bandwidth than 1080 res A/V for only uncompressed hi-res music streaming? There's no 'problem' that needs a 'solution', as bandwidth is plentiful. And where a steady 5 Mbs 'high bandwidth' is not available, then the current mp3 / AAC is what it is until that localized area has higher bandwidth. Actually 2.5 Mbs is probably fine for Hi-Res Audio, yet love 2x bandwidth for headroom purposes to avid dropouts (MP3 needs only 0.5Mbs). My cell phone gets a solid 50 Mbs up and down with the soon to be old tech 4G LTE, with home Wi-Fi being far higher bandwidth. The upcoming 5G cellular connection will increase download speeds to ~10 Gbs. Remember, it takes 1000 Mb to equal a Gb. We're no longer in 1998 using slow 56kbs modems, or 128kbs ISDN, and thus no need for MP3.

So I ask, why do we 'need' lossy compression to deliver very low-bandwidth rate 24-bit audio FLAC? I wirelessly stream 4K Netflix video plus digital surround sound within my home using some relatively old electronics. Don't have modern bandwidth over 5Mbs? Having the ability to adjust to available bandwidth in delivering the highest possible quality of audio/video has long been solved. YouTube does it every day, kajillions of times a month. So does Netflix, Twitch (was Justin TV by Justin Kan), and many others online.

 

 

Oh, and during the 2018 Grammy Awards last weekend Apple had great ads featuring fun music... to tout new emojis. Maybe high-end audio needs a unicorn... or a new hackspace where we can all share and stream Hi-Res Audio until the music industry.... ? We could launch an online service called Crytomusic with a small sniff of blockchain payment tech added in... and IPO.

 

 

I'm losing the main plot of this article, and of Hi-Res Audio in how the recording industry plans to make it more an 'afterthought' in use. Because right now when I think of Hi-Res Audio, things have become more confusing instead of less. Debates have ensued, journalist debating one another...

Is this really what the music industry wanted with the new Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music format launch?

After well over a decade in CE retail personally, imho one of the easiest ways to kill a sale is to confuse the customer. Bravo, job well done. Oh, wait, i mean someone really fucked up! That's ok, MP3 was a majorly fucked up 'launch' of sorts in the early days. RIAA lawsuits, naysayers, and major recording labels were of little help as they were behind the curve (and they knew it!).

 

 

In 1999 Wired magazine had an article titled "MP3: A Flash In The Pan", and it took Napster to make it take hold. Sure there's talk of streaming versus downloading....

 

 

Is it time high-end audio 'hacks' Hi-Res Audio digital music streaming? I have an idea...

 

As always, in the end, what really matters is that you...

  

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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