Welcome to the Hi-Res Music World, Part Two: Music Creators

The second installment of the hi-res music panels focused on content creation. Clearly, garbage-in, garbage-out. For great-sounding music in our homes, we must rely on engineers and producers to create it in the studio. Complicating that picture is the fact that artists and labels must also agree that sound quality is an important part of the job at hand. The panel tackled those and many other hi-res issues.

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.

dnoonie's picture

I very much appreciate the few SACDs I have. My OPPO will play other Hi-Res formats so I’m looking into Hi-Res downloads.

It is such a relaxing relief to kick back to a wonderfully mastered Hi-Res recording.

Thank you to all the dedicated Hi-Res music creators!!!!

Discussions and controversy:
To me what music comes down to is communication, language, and tools. Not a simple concept really…at least to many.

I consider music a language to commutate something. Most often it is emotional but to me it can be visual or conceptual as well…and…well sometimes it’s simply an exercise it dexterity or instrumental prowess with little else.

With that in mind tape used to be a tool to help musicians communicate. If a Hi-Res work flow can help get me closer to understanding what the musicians were “saying” then it’s a great tool.

A new recording I’m listening with distortion can send me scrambling for test material I’m familiar with. But once I settle down and try to understand what’s being said by the music that distortion simply becomes another part of the language…life isn’t always clean…after a storm there’s dirt on the sidewalk that crunches, the leaves squish, the twigs snap, after working on a speaker building project the sawdust has it’s own gritty sound on the paint and adhesive stained garage floor. Distortion can create a space, clean/dirty, fresh/smelly/moldy/floral, dark/foggy/bright and stark/dusky. Distortion can become an element of the language of music. If Hi-Res can help communicate the musicians intent along with that distortion then use it.