The Toronto Audio Video Entertainment Show was held at the King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Canada on September 28 - 30 2012. It featured over 70 exhibitors highlighting some 300 or so brands of audio, video and related technologies. There were also some very memorable presentations.
Digital Music Demystified - Marc Saltzman
I listened to Marc Saltzman (a top technology expert) giving a treatise on "Digital Music Demystified". Marc's personal tagline is "Geek speak to street speak" and he did an excellent job explaining digital music from the early days of MP3s to today's HD audio. In order to put things in perspective, he covered topics such as "Digital versus Analog" all the way to "Streaming audio services" of which he says "Again, we’re trading quality for convenience, price". Marc was however optimistic that wireless streaming would improve in quality over time. His full presentation is available here.
The Future of Music Entertainment - Mark Waldrep, PhD
Mark is the founder of AIX records and iTrax.com where he produces and sells hard and soft media digital recordings in a wide range of formats including PCM 24/96, FLAC 24/96, DTS, Dolby Digital all the way to MP3.
After A few minutes into Mark's presentation it was clear that he is someone who is very passionate about music and was willing to put his money where his mouth is. He made a strong case for the following:
1. HD Audio recordings cannot be truly HD if you simply convert the old master tapes to a digital format of 96Khz, 24 bit or similar. This is because the old recordings were made with equipment and tapes limited to a dynamic range of around 70dB. Simply converting them to the digital format (even applying various techniques to "improve" the sound) will not produce HD audio. "90 percent of CD music has compression that sucks the life out of the music" Converting such recordings to "HD Audio" is a useless game and downright dishonest.
2. To get true HD audio, the recordings must be done with equipment that supports HD Audio. This is why Mark has been bringing artists into his studio and recording/ re-recording them to produce some of the highest quality music available today.
3. Stereo is OK, surround sound is better. Most Audiophiles will not consider anything more than 2 channels as true Hi-fidelity sound. Mark is not interested necessarily in producing "realistic" music but he wants the listener to be in the best position i.e. in the middle of the set "standing where the conductor is". He records each instrument with a pair of microphones instead of a single one and he records all the musicians at the same time. No equalization of files, no dynamic processing, no artificial reverb is applied to the recording. The result is a recording that is "better than the original" and creates an "intimate connection with the audience"
4. The focus of all this work is to create a "Personalized Music delivery system" where a listener can get digital files customized for their specific likes such as a particular loudspeaker or preamp sound.
Mark's full presentation is available here.
Special Mention - Cabasse
Patrick Sareault from Cabasse Canada demoed the Cabasse Riga speakers. Transparency and soundstage were in the domain of some of the better Electrostatic speakers. A quote from their website, "all Cabasse’s products come to life facing the Atlantic ocean, at the tip of Brittany in western France, a land of sailors, research scientists and musicians attuned to different worlds and universes".
Special Mention - Burmester
Burmester showed off their Reference series ($600,000) in the main ballroom. This large room was the right size for such a system. They paired two B-100 speakers on each side to produce room-filling bass that can be described as fast and tight. I can't say that I have heard better sound at this relatively high volume when they played their demo tracks. Cindy Gomez also performed using the same system but the sound was not as good.