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March 2018
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Senseless Ramblings
Once a new technology rolls over you...
A Curious Ordering Of Words In English Written By Steven R. Rochlin

 


Photo of an atom. A single strontium atom is illuminated by a laser while suspended in the air by two electrodes. For a sense of scale, those two electrodes on each side of the tiny dot are only two millimeters apart. None of us are simply a single atom; we are part of an interconnected eco-system.

 

  Warning: If the English words below create something comprehendible, it is only by coincidence and not by design.

 

Yes, I'll get to following up on last month's Hacking Hi-Res Audio: Tech savvy music lovers unite... and win! article that appeared in February 2018. But first.... If it was me, MP3 would be akin to 1519, when Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz. As he began a great conquest, he gave the order to burn the ships. Of course that act meant his men had to go out and conquest, as there's no turning back. So by having the music industry discontinue MP3 / AAC and all other lossy compressed formats. This is for the survival of bring widely-used streaming audio technology to at least the 1980's CD standards (ummm, welcome to technology circa 38 years ago... really!).

You get e-mail, I get e-mail, we all get e-mail. So a major music label sent me a press release of a newly-released historic music box set. All the right words, nice pic, yet I only see compact discs being offered. So i naturally enquired if a Hi-Res Music version was available, since it was mastered in 24-bit/192kHz. Yes, the press release said they did this and that to remaster the sound, including those magic words audio geeks like me love. "Four of the albums have never before been released on CD, and have been remastered from the original analog masters using 24 bit / 192 kHz technology, plus one CD remastered from tape especially for this edition." So 24-bit/192kHz mastered, yet I see only CDs and no mention of Hi-Res Music downloading. Anywho, after my e-mail to the press releases folks, their e-mail reply from the artist rep was:

Dear Steven,
Unfortunately these 2 box sets are not available in hi resolution download.
I'm sorry I don't have better news!

 

So someone took the time, energy, and finances to master in Hi-Res Audio yet no release in anything better than the CD? Mmmm-kay. Oh, and it's 'only' The Juilliard String Quartet – The Complete Epic Recordings, 1956-66. (Sarc) So nothing, you know, historic or of importance, or of actual high quality acoustic instruments played by people who might have a smidgen of, you know, rare human talent. Besides, it's only among the last Juilliard recordings to feature the quartet's founding member violinist Robert Koff.

 

 

And Now, Some Foreplay Before I Get To Last Month's 'Hacking'
It has come to my attention that live streaming shows and producing videos is getting more popular. In a sense, the same reason I stopped low-rez 1080 video and started talking about 'hacking' together your own Hi-Res Audio streaming music system have some personal similarities. IMHO right now the best high-quality 1080 rez videos from a magazine within the Americas is being produced by Soundstage! (kudos Doug Schneider and his amazing videographer Chris Chitaroni!). Soundstage uses camera gear by Red, does great editing, wonderful videography including transitions, flow, pace, etc. Soundstage's videos are truly professional. If we're in the luxury goods business producing videos, it's going to a bit an uphill battle with a basic consumer-grade camera and cheapish mic setup. BTW, today's cheap binaural by having mics by your ears attached to glasses is just that, welcome to hippy Grateful Dead 1970's. And for personal audio, headphones, portable media players, etc, of course there's Head-Fi's Jude Marsalis who produces some of the very best videos for that segment of the industry.

So where the fuck is Steve going with all this? Decided during New Year's Day that 2018 would be different.

CES? Gone!

Flat 1080 TV studio? Gone!

Change is good and all that, plus it is fun trying new things (Heather and I are taking up kiteboarding!). Yesterday (Feb 22, 2018) was discussing with Heather how I could easily produce 360-degree VR video during shows including multi-channel / head-tracking audio. Of course once the 'data' is captured, we could do 360 video with head tracking audio, or basically old-school binaural and flat 1080, or perhaps 4k-ish 360 video with audio in Dolby Atmos. Yes, these are things I can do. Right now.

So, why would I go back to 1080? Shit, no one is broadcasting at low-rez 1080, I mean, you know, major broadcasters.

So after loving the whole idea of buying more toys to construct a fully portable VR rig... my work in that regard... so that everything would be portable and completely battery-powered. There I was getting all excited at the prospect of expanding / building a compelling way to present a high-end audio luxury goods event too. Conceptualized ways to....  And then...

Heather asks a simple question. "But who would watch it?"

Hmmmm...

During a seminar at AXPONA 2017 I asked audience members (~40) who has tried VR and there was perhaps one, maybe two people. So kind reader, have you tried VR? You do know that NBC has invested quite a bit into producing the Olympics in VR?

But, but, (thinking to myself in answering Heather's basic valid question) I could record 360-degree hi-res video plus upwards of 10 audio channels in 24-bit/192kHz via a really tweak mic rig. Imagine the possibilities! Sounds cool? Maybe? But there's my lovely Muse and wife Heather bringing me back down to reality.

Who would actually watch 360 degree, head tracking enabled audio (or Dolby Amos) videos? Yes the new Samsung S9 can play Dolby Atmos, because, you know, we desire sound quality.... Trivia buff take note, Samsung manufactured the first cell phone to play back MP3, and years ago they also could handle Hi-Res Audio (24/192 in Beta, 24/96 in production version). Samsung Galaxy S8 was the first phone to boast Bluetooth 5 connectivity, including Bluetooth Dual Audio of course.

 

Technology does not change the world... you are the ones who see new possibilities that open the door to new experiences. – DJ Koh of Samsung.

 

So my friends, do you have a VR setup? Did you know that your cell phone works and all you need is a mere $20 (or perhaps free DIY with cardboard... or Samsung's rig in various flavors). Producing VR is not that expensive (relatively) today, as the price of what's needed has decreased dramatically plus quality of data capture has improved plus we've better understood the science behind properly capturing what's needed. With demand for said gear means, generally, lower pricing and high quality because of a healthy capitalist system. And that brings us to...

 

Hacking Hi-Res Audio.... Continued
Recall reading something about a year ago where Jimmy Iovine said something along the lines of there being little to no demand for Hi-Res Audio from Apple, even though Apple has been receiving Hi-Res Music from recording labels for quite some time. Sure my memory could be wrong, yet if something sticks in my mind (like this) it is usually for a reason. So if there's virtually no real demand (broadly speaking) for Hi-Res Audio, then why invest into streaming Hi-Res Audio now? Of course there's the hardware side, because you need compatible hardware to decode and play back Hi-Res Audio. And here's where the whole 360-degree VR upwards of 10-channels at 24-bit/192kHz collide. If there's no demand for high-end show coverage in VR, and virtually none of you reading this has a VR setup, then why should I invest time / money into producing said content? Look, no one has dared to live stream a high-end audio show using pro gear except one crazy guy in the industry (who doesn't mind being within a closed room for 8+ hours a day, no windows within said room, and never having the ability to walk through the show itself as exhibitors came to the TV studio).

 

 

For those curious, the fee asked from live streaming AXPONA (twice) and RMAF (once) was $0, and $0 from those who appeared during those live show streams (Disclosure, AXPONA and RMAF did pay to ship gear and provided a room/bandwidth, which I am truly, deeply, very humbled, and grateful for their help). Not even a $1 tip, $0, but then again am not a 'tip jar' kinda guy. For me, it's not about.... It is about having fun and doing something that brings more joy into my life, as selfish as that may sound, as learning a new skill is fun and of course helping others as best I can. It's about love, life, and leisure. And of course enjoying the music.

Remember earlier within this haplessly pathetic jumbled mess of words in the English language how I wrote that virtually none of you have a VR setup? How many <cough> normal </cough> people do you think have something, or are aware of they have something, to play back Hi-Res Audio? Am not referring to only audiophiles. We're referring to some percentage of people who are right now paying for streaming music and if they even have hardware/software that would play back something better than the compressed AAC / MP3 they're listening to right now. Keep in mind you need a decent-sized install base to then sell to those who desire said technology, or have the pricing so that it becomes a viable option (such as what's happening right now in reel-to-reel).

 

Side Note: Do love how the reel-to-reel guys can make their hobby work at some appropriate higher costs. Of course not sure how large a library one could build with pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape, yet the point of people finding a way to make it work brings joy to my soul. Bravo!

Side Note Part II: For many years I've looked at devices as things, not necessarily for what the original engineers say XYZ item is. Because when we look at your computer, all it is, well, is a dumb box of electronics that needs code to tell it what to do (not necessarily ***what it was originally designed to do****).

 

 

So This "Hacking" Thing....
For me, hacking can be anything from MacGyver'ing a simple paper clip to turn it into a lock pick. Perhaps you 'hacked' a speaker crossover so it is now bi-wireable. i see hacking as being a good thing because you take something and, in a sense, turn it into something else that it was not originally designed for. Sure some very smart audiophiles have a networked storage system where they can stream their music collection via Internet connection. An what if, say, 5, or 25, or 50 audiophiles had access to upload their legal copies of a Hi-Res Music files and only play back ONE COPY of said digital audio file at a time. One file, one user. Think of it like a bunch of friends who loan one another their LPs; you know, akin to going to the library and checking out a CD, DVD, etc. Only one 'copy' at a time, and when done with the 'library's' music title it gets 'checked back in' for the next person to enjoy. Of course if three legal copies are uploaded, then there can be three simultaneous streams, yet of course one unique file for one person, another for the next, and so on. BTW, popular app VLC just released support for 10-bit video, plus now audio passthrough for HD audio codecs is supported. You may browse a local network and network-attached storage (NAS) drives for media. Of course someone should run this idea past legal first.

There's quite a few other ideas, yet first there's always legalities, and the aforementioned one seems legal enough on the surface yet am sure some lawyer somewhere might feel differently. Don't recall anyone saying I can't loan my 'vinyl LP records' to someone to enjoy. Don't recall anyone saying I can't sell my vinyl LP / cassette / 8 Track / CD on eBay. So am sure if you legally buy a Hi-Res Music title from HDtracks, once done with it you can resell it on eBay, right? Oh, wait...

BTW, if you're no longer listening to that Hi-Res Music album, since you can't sell it, please donate it to the 'library' so others may enjoy it.

 

There's Good News On The Hi-Res Audio Front
Hey, did you know it's only been about five years since My Memo To The Industry? IKR? My wife Heather could not believe that five years have passed so quickly. So where are we at now that Hi-Res Audio has had five years from initial logo creation, trademark, etc to today (RIAA's Hi-Res Music logo and branding is three years old). Two years ago Hi-Res Music 'officially' expanded to streaming services.

Well, good news is that on November 8th (2017) the Grammy folks released a guideline for the recording industry. The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing published their "Recommendations For Hi-Resolution Music Production" in PDF form. If you haven't even heard of it being released, Enjoy the Music.com did announce it within our Industry News page months ago and you can read the PDF at this link. Here's the opening introduction, and I highly recommend download and reading this document in its entirety:

Recent research from Music Watch, the Consumer Technology Association and DEG has shown that consumers are interested in better quality audio and that many are willing to pay for it. The sound of digital audio has improved vastly from its early days. It is now possible for consumers to hear studio quality music — recorded music with sound quality equal to what the artists, producers, mix engineers, and mastering engineers worked to achieve. Providing the listener with the best audio quality gives them the best possible experience, which results in more engaged consumers, increased satisfaction in the creative community, and an improved financial environment for all who are involved in creating, recording, producing, and promoting music.

Sales of Hi-Resolution Audio downloads from companies such as HD Tracks and Pro Studio Masters have become a healthy business with many subscription streaming services focusing on the delivery of higher quality audio, whether CD-quality or true Hi-Resolution using MQA. And now, most record companies require the delivery of hi-res masters because they recognize new opportunities to monetize better-sounding music.

Although there is growing interest in Hi-Res Audio within the music industry digital supply chain, we currently lack hi-res production standards. This leads to confusion and inefficiencies. The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing has created "Recommendations for HiResolution Music Production" to help increase efficiency and transparency in the production process. It is important that we all work together to ensure the consistent quality of recorded masters, from their inception, through the supply chain, and ultimately to consumers.

This set of recommendations is not a tutorial on digital concepts. However, when it leads to a more thorough understanding of hi-resolution audio, some aspects of digital recording are briefly explained.

 

Please read the paper, as there is quite a bit of good technical stuff that geeks like me enjoy reading. Some of it is also educational, as newbies and some veterans are only now grasping changing from old systems to investing in one ones. And so it helps to know the new industry standards and adhere to them.

 

And If You Felt Little Of The Above Makes Any Sense...
Wish last month's article by Yours Truly was like that 'dreamy' TV series year for Dallas. Horrible reference, and if you got it then odds are you're probably within the older generation. And in a sense that's my point. Don't get me wrong, I remember screaming at the TV when during a season's first episode the annulled the previous year as it was 'just a dream' (Dream Year). My point being if you get the reference, do you also understand that many of us are designing and creating for people who not only do not get the Dream Year reference, they have no idea of a TV show called Dallas and never lived with a world without the Internet simply being there. This is akin to how many of us do not recall a time of living without clean water from a spigot, not having a toilet that flushes, or a prosumer / professional cappuccino machine that didn't use an E61 group head (invented by Ernesto Valente in 1961).

If you recall that nearly five year old article I wrote back in mid-June 2013 titled "My Memo To The Industry" (still shaking my head, holy crap has it really been five years!)...  Anywho, what is the very first sentence of that article?

Have had this article in my head for a long, long time.

The point being, am not one to 'design' or 'create' (or dream) of what's very easily possible today. That's old shits already been done, and glad it is! Everyone can easily walk through a show and video record. We want to think of the new possibilities that are truly exciting, what we can accomplish to bring more joy into the world for future generations. This is not about me, or you.... Well, maybe you, and ****you**** know who ***you*** are. We need to bring a compelling way to bring higher quality music to the masses, and not just "So, what's new at this show" type video or affixing a couple of mid-grade mics to your glasses for 'binaural'.

 

So About This Hi-Res Music Streaming...
European streaming and download service Qobuz was at CES announcing their entry into the U.S. market from Europe. Qibuz offers more than 40 million CD-quality download titles and 1 million high-res download titles in such formats as FLAC, WAV and DSD. It lays claim to offering more high-res titles for download than any other site with in the world. Yes my friends, they will offer 192kHz/24-bit FLAC streaming within the USA at launch. The streaming and download titles will be playable on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android apps and through home audio products from more than 50 brands, a spokesman said. Pandora and Napster have also announced a desire in offering Hi-Res Music streaming, but the projects had not yet come to fruition at the time of this writing.

 

Times Up, For Now
Aaaaaand I've run out of time to finish randomly typing English words hoping they form something that makes sense. So below are mental confetti of ideas (thx Tyll Hertsens, confetti) and articles that piqued my interest recently. Was hoping to write more about music content creators needing more seats at the new congress bill proposal. Seems business is getting priority before those who actually create / provide 'product' to said industry. IMHO product providers (song writers, musicians, sound engineers, etc) should scrap the incredibly inefficient, outdated, and money-sucking scheme of today's major recording labels for a completely new way of offering their music that is more aligned with efficiencies of modern day business (h/t Amazon, good luck Wal*Mart). The sheer inefficiency, plus 'random' companies taking their slice of the music business pie, might now be at a breaking point. Far too many hands in the financial pie imho.

Can someone explain to me losing money due to 'breakage' when your music is 100% digital download? A little bird told me... but who knows about the truth from those little birds?

 

Congress bill
www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2334

www.riaa.com... 

Billboard editorial www.billboard.com... 

Slicing up music. Wonder if we can have the investment banking sector do derivatives; let's leverage this baby to the hilt until the entire house of cards is simply 'too big to fail'. The goal is TBTF, because if I owe you $10,000 it is my problem, yet if I owe you $100,000,000 it's your problem. www.musicbusinessworldwide.com...

 

 

Satellite Internet. Holy crap, wrote about this is the 1990's with Teledesic and only now is someone actually doing it? www.marketwatch.com...

Audible sound is a ubiquitous environmental factor in nature that transmits oscillatory compressional pressure through the substances. To investigate the property of the sound as a mechanical stimulus for cell... journals.plos.org...

Intel in now capturing events in 3D via massive multi-camera and hardware / software integration, so this combined with holographic projection equals, you guessed it, the Holodeck. So there's your $1B idea investors. Now go out and make it happen.

 

 

Some 'Leftoverture' Stuff
Was somehow going to be in my above article, but guess these 'fragments' just never found their way into....

It takes time for tech to reach the hands of the masses. Good thing Hi-Res Audio is pretty much built-in to any new audio device or the past year or three, including virtually all quality Android phones. For years I've wanted to do a VR show report, binaural and all, which is really easy stuff. Problem is, raise your hands if you have VR headset. Wow, virtually no one for such a high-end tech reader.

Don't know what Google's free cardboard is, well, in a sense that's why I bailed on the idea of VR and binaural show reports, as odds are you don't have a way to see the content I'm able to create. Yes, this is high-end audio and so am sure many of you couldn't give a rat's @$$ about VR, completely and totally fair argument and I do agree kinda sorta. Any who.... Sure in the future you might do VR, yet by the time you 'get there' would you want to watch a five year old show report video in 'low-res' 4k of now-defunct products? Maybe you do. Yet the cost and human resources today for me to produce a VR show report would basically be futile due to a sheer lack of having it reach a wide enough audience to make it 'worth my wild'... to eventually producing even more advanced AR techniques (anyone paying attn. to what NVDA and Intel are up to?) so that it would be 'easy' to produce a 'virtual' show you can interact with. This interaction would include a way to connect with a product rep... and said product rep could even sell you the unit, scan your listening room's acoustics, and formulate possible better / best speaker positioning given the 3D data of your home, which of course your home builder supplied so before buying said home you VR'ed and chose the layout, design, etc.

Hmmm... maybe augmented reality would be far better for a compelling experience?

 

 

Digital art.... crypto-art Forever Rose sold for $1,000,000 worth of cryptocurrency to a grouping of 10 collectors. Wait, digital art, nothing 'real', being sold for $1M and 10 people own it. The world has indeed changed since i was a child. In some ways that's good, others perhaps not so much. "With the sale, the Forever Rose is now the world's most valuable piece of virtual artwork ever sold, and marks the historical merging of blockchain technology, fine art, and charitable causes."

Samsung announced a 30TB SSD. Ummm, so what is the strawman argument about lack of storage for Hi-Res Audio?

Congrats to Justin for Twitch's very first live show called Stream On. Great name! It woulda been perfect for the music industry's new thing too, yet...

My humble apologies for the rant-ish, or if I lost you in all the darn gibberish of AR, VR, and holodeck. Holodeck? Yes the beloved holodeck is getting to be near possible. Not like we're putting easy-to-do Facetime / Skype with AES-256 encryption on a 'web-remote control Segway'... then call it the Dub Bot. Ah, when life was easy....

Harman just posted on FB (2/26/18): Did you know worldwide spending on augmented reality and virtual reality is projected to reach $17.8 billion in 2018?

The 'connected' life will simply be a seamless part of your existence.

The Goal: When using ____ technology is simply an afterthought that enhances life, brings you more joy, and your music. Ubiquitous.

 

Those (seemingly insignificant) moments spent enjoying music reminds you of what's important. They remind you that all we really have is our consciousness, and each other. After all, what is life without either? I would say then, it matters little what we've achieved, if those achievements are not also in service of others.

 

 

"You realize when you know how to think, it empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think." -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

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

  

Enjoy the Music (Rush "Circumstances" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

These walls that still surround me
Still contain the same old me
Just one more who's searching for
A world that ought to be...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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