Ken Gets a Beat Down

Ouch! Thank goodness for the Affordable Care Act, because now I’ve got a pre-existing condition called Bruised Ego. Man, oh, man&mdashdid I get a beat down. Even after all the stitches and bandages are removed, I’ll probably always walk a little wobbly.

I made the cardinal error of dismissing two high-rez audio formats. You can tell a man that his wife is hot, you can tell him his horse is ugly, you can even tell him his car is slow. But you should never, ever, tell him his audio format is obsolete. Alert S&V readers responded with considerable vigor. Most notably, Todd Tatalias fired off a particularly frosty e-mail. He was gentlemanly in his rebuttal, but probably the only thing that saved me from an unpleasant personal visit was that Todd lives in Anchorage whereas I was writing from Miami. Thank goodness I wasn’t in the Yukon at the time.

Here’s the deal: In my October 2013 “The Next Big Thing” column, writing mainly out of frustration, I stated that DVD-Audio and SACD were “dead and gone. They join a long list of failed technologies that never caught on...and had their plugs pulled.” I was speaking of mass-market acceptance, but I touched a raw nerve. A month later in 2013 “The Pendulum Swings”, I argued that consumers may be growing weary of smartphone A/V fidelity and wondered if they were ready for newer and better technologies such as wireless audio and 4K video. But that didn’t help either. I still got reamed for dissing the still-beloved disc formats.

Combined, Todd and his dad have been subscribing to Sound & Vision and it’s predecessor Stereo Review for 40 years. Sound quality matters to them. Regarding my comments about DVD-Audio and SACD, Todd responded, “I didn’t appreciate this. As a devoted audiophile, I seek these formats and Blu-ray albums and to this day find new titles being released. I hope your readers don’t take your message to heart and stop seeking these formats, thereby hurting the longevity of an art form that many still appreciate.” He continues, “Help promote a side of the industry that I for one would sorely miss if it went away. Surround and high-def audio will survive! Help promote the cause!”

I have only two words to say: Mea culpa! Actually, I have a few more words to say. I shouldn’t have written off those (or any) high-rez formats. DVD-Audio and SACD continue to serve a loyal audiophile market. We need to chat them up, not diss them. As Todd points out, if audiophiles don’t support high fidelity, who will? It is our responsibility and obligation to be evangelists for high fidelity. We should not go gently into the night with high-rez disc formats, and we should enthusiastically endorse new formats such as high-rez downloads and Blu-ray Audio. In fact, at long last, these may be the holy grails of audio formats.

Case in point, consider that the International CES featured the “Hi-Res Audio Experience,” a show within the show promoting the cause of high-fidelity audio formats with panelists and exhibitors from major and independent record labels and content providers. Also, my colleague Mike Mettler chaired a panel of musicians, producers, and recording engineers who are particularly pumped about high-rez music projects and busily stuffing the digital pipelines full of bits for us audiophiles. I promise to give you a full report later.

Anyway, to everyone combing the Internet looking for DVD-Audio and SACD titles, I apologize. We audiophiles can’t afford to dismiss any high-rez music. Instead, we must embrace them all, old and new. My punishment? Simple. To teach me to appreciate the fidelity of high-rez digital playback, I’ll spend an entire, painful evening listening to analog playback from LP records. One thing is for sure—I don’t want to piss off any more readers.

Read Ken’s 2014 CES reports here:
“Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, Part One: Record Labels”
“Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, Part Two: Music Creators”
“Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, Part Three: Retailers”