Friday, June 03, 2005

META, audiophile recordings and SACD/DVD-A thoughts

Quite many audiophiles propably missed that in a press-conference during the CES 2005 the META-initiative (Music Engineering & Technology Alliance) was announced. META states as their mission statement:

"Established to provide the best standards and practices for high-quality music recording and delivery by uniting audio professionals, technology providers, and consumer electronics manufacturers."

Behind META are some heavyweights from recording industry, so the initiative has credibility.

John Atkinson wrote in Stereophile February 2005 eNewsletter as follows: "One of the factors that has increasingly marginalized the high-end audio industry is the lack of attention paid to sound quality in the music industry: If there's no more quality to be retrieved from an overcompressed, overequalized, overprocessed, underdithered, underperforming MP3 than can be obtained from playback on a computer via a pair of pitiful plastic PC speakers, then why should anyone bother with putting together a high-performance audio system?"

Viewpoint: Finally, we Audiophiles Unified say. I wrote earlier in this blog that although (if, actually) we have managed to build a truly high-end hifi system that is capable to reproduce to the highest fidelity the original recording, we have only completed a half of audio circle. What we are often sadly experiencing is non-audiophile recordings. With recordings "audiophile" simply means that the same care goes into the front end that goes into the back end. The studios, which have invested in state-of-the-art recording chain and the highest quality available signal path, basically completes the audiophile circle. Once a melomane plays the recording at home, that's the other half, a studio keen to make the highest quality possible recording is the first half.

I sincerely hope that META initiative succeeds in its mission. During the last decade there has been too much emphasis on convenience over sound quality, and if recording industry would bring back quality, they might even be able to find a sustainable business model in the onslaught from downloadable music. The SACD and DVD-A were not pushed by industry because it wished to serve audiophiles better, or rise the bar and provide the highest-quality audio for mass consumption. Rather the objectives were first to make money from re-issues (like when people replaced their familiar music LPs with CDs), and second and more importantly, introduce effective copy protection into playback chain by keeping both architectures closed in terms of limiting digital out connection options.

Further proof? In both formats the content is too often compromised with respect to resolution and dynamic range, which renders moot the advantages of the new formats. There are even measurements demonstrating that in some SACD hybrid disk both CD and 2-channel SACD layer were exactly the same material.

Search Popdex: