We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring David Chesky of Chesky Records and HDtracks. At Chesky Records, their philosophy is simple: to create the illusion of live musicians in a real three-dimensional space. Chesky Records tries to achieve the impression of reality with the most advanced technology available, careful microphone placement, and, most of all, a recording team that pays attention to every minute detail-making your listening experience tangible, pleasurable, exciting, and realistic. Their commitment to detail and dedication to the music produced has earned the company world-wide acclaim for the artistic and technical excellence of its releases.
HDtracks is a high-resolution digital music store offering music in multiple formats as well as cover art (and liner notes via PDF) with high-definition audio master recording quality. The company was privately founded by David and Norman Chesky of the audiophile recording company Chesky Records, and is based in New York City. The service was launched on March 21, 2008, initially offering only CD-quality 44.1 kHz audio files in AIFF format from a small offering of independent record labels. Eventually, HDtracks began offering higher sample- and bit-rate recordings such as 24-bit/96kHz and 192kHz with a focus on jazz, classical music, soft rock, and historic recordings targeting adult consumers looking for an alternative to lesser-quality lossy compressed files.
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. I always took piano lesson, but like many kids at first did not dig doing all the work and practicing when I could be outside playing baseball or hanging out with my friends. As for recorded music, my mother played Tom Jobim albums at the house during the 1960s when Bossa Nova was the thing. Then my mom took me to hear Buddy Rich and Oscar Peterson as a kid.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. As a kid I had a band and we used to buy PA systems. At first, it was a SHURE PA and then we saved up for a pair of Altec Voice Of The Theater (VOT) speakers. Then in school, I started building speakers and selling them as a hobby. Nothing great, as I just slapped drivers in a box and sold them for about $7 back in the day. One day I went to an audio show in Miami with a school friend Bill Borkan that was into engineering. We heard the ESS Heil speakers and that was the first time I heard high-end audio and loved it on the spot! I think we also heard some Quad electrostatic speakers at the time as well. It was all fun.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. Maybe my Altec Voice Of The Theaters because it is nostalgia from when I had a rock band in junior high school.
Q. When did you decide to start a record company?
A. I started as a musician and consider that my real job. I used to work in studios all day as an arranger / conductor and was on Columbia records back in the day with my big band. There was always a desire to have a record label. When I conducted for TV shows and movies, they had about 50 microphones up and it never sounded great. Where I stood on the conductor's podium it was the best sound. So I decided to start a record label from a one-point microphone perspective, the best seat in the house! And that is how we started the Chesky Records label. My brother Norman, at the time, was the one scouting potential gigs for TVs shows etc and then he comes on board with the record label.
We have always been refining what we do at Chesky Records, but it has always been about a one-point perspective. Then we started the whole HD music thing when we went to 24-bit/96kHz and then 192kHz, etc. After that, we needed a way to get our albums to customers as record shops were closing. The solution was to launch HDtracks to deliver HD files. When we started HDtracks, digital DACs were just coming out.
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. Earl Wild plays the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. There were many, but we were young and dumb and just tackled each one as they came along. If you have a passion for what you do things fall into place and you don't mind working harder.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. We started out doing 128X oversampled CDs, and eventually moved to 24-bit/96kHz, and then 192kHz. As for our microphone technique, we started with the AKG -C24. Then that was modded many times by George Kaye to be an OTL (output transformerless) microphone. Then we switched to the soundfield, and then binaural. Now we are checking out stereo ribbons and spaced Omnis with all custom tube microphone pre-amplifiers and special analog-to-digital converters.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. I would think the new 24-bit/192kHz downloads people seem to enjoy. For us, it's always the newest album because it's fresh.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. We are trying to get back into the studios now. With COVID we have been locked out. But I have managed to make two new albums during this time. I hope we can get a vaccine fast and we can put a large group of players into a studio.
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. I believe in the future high-end audio with merge with virtual glasses and my grandkids won't listen to an album but attend virtual concerts around the globe. And it will be so real you won't know the difference. That is the future....