Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, Part Two: Music Creators
The moderator was my colleague Mike Mettler, Founder and Editorial Director, The Sound Bard. The panelists were: Elliot Scheiner, producer, mixer and engineer, ELS Surround; Allen Sides, engineer and producer, Ocean Way Recording; John Newton, founder and president, Soundmirror, Inc.; C. Jared Sacks, producer and engineer, Channel Classics; David Chesky, composer, musician and producer, Chesky Records; Cookie Marenco, founder and executive producer, Blue Coast Records; and Mark Waldrep, recording and mastering engineer, AIX Records.
The panelists discussed the creative process, and the joys of recording, mixing and mastering in hi-res audio. Not surprisingly, the conversations often turned to the frustrations of hi-res audio. It is certainly not a mass-market endeavor; the panelists often compared themselves to craftsmen and craftswomen pursuing something they loved, rather then something the mass market fully appreciates.
There was a fair amount of professional scrabbling. One panelist likes analog tape, another likes PCM. Someone warns against using (and abusing) compressors and equalizers, while someone else says they are essential tools. That kind of disagreement is commonplace among citizens of the studio. More to the point, the panelists all agreed that hi-res music is still a lonely place, but that change might be in the wind. In fact, now is probably the best opportunity since SACD and DVD-Audio for hi-res to assert itself.
But how to proceed? Can Sony's renewed interest in hi-res be leveraged into broader industry support? What lessons can be learned from SACD and DVD-Audio? Multichannel is still a tough sell; will pushing it help or hinder the broader hi-res effort? Will Apple support hi-res? Will record labels, in this economic climate that is so tough for them, pay even a small premium for hi-res production? If artists want their music released on hi-res, would that be enough to convince the labels to support it?
On one hand, the panelists seemed almost resigned to their lives in the hi-res wilderness. They certainly were not predicting a swift or easy future for hi-res. But, they were holding out hope. That kind of skepticism is probably the best approach for now. One thing is certain: whatever the mass market is doing, they continue to put hi-res content in the can, and make it available to a small but growing group of listeners who appreciate the difference.