Sony, UMG, NARAS’ P&E Wing and Capitol Studios Present DEG Hi-Res Symposium

HOLLYWOOD (June 1st)— At a Hi-Res Symposium presented by DEG® (“The digital Entertainment Group”), in Capitol’s legendary Studio “A”, representatives from record labels, Sony electronics, Capitol Studios and The Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers wing, discussed the future of high resolution digital audio.

Senior Director, DEG Marc Finer opened the presentation with a short welcome and an outline of the morning’s agenda followed by a short from the heart speech by Blue Note President Don Was titled “The Importance of Hi-Res Music”. Was outlined his emotional connection to and the importance in his life of Wayne Shorter’s 1966 Blue Note release “Speak No Evil”, which he heard first on vinyl.

Was talked about his becoming president of Blue Note and his oversight of the high-resolution digitization of the storied Blue Note catalog, that including consultations with legendary recording and mastering engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

Marc Finer followed with an industry overview that included many surprising statistics based on CTA (Consumer Technology Association) conducted research that, among other things, indicated that “90% of consumers cited sound quality as most important”, and that “more than 60% were willing to pay more for better sound.”

The research demonstrated that listeners can be divided into four basic groups: “disinterest consumers” (9% who have no interest in music), “low tech listeners” (44% who listen to music as background while going about life’s every day tasks), “emotional music lovers” (32% for whom music is very important and who care about sound but who haven’t made a serious connection or commitment to experiencing it at home) and “high tech audiophiles” (15% who have invested in some kind of high performance audio system and are committed listeners).

Each was represented with a photograph (the low tech listener, for instance was a woman preparing a salad). For some reason the “high tech audiophile” image was of a young man, not sitting in front of a high performance audio system, but rather playing an acoustic guitar.

The research broke down consumers into two groups: those who were “need-based” (cost conscious) as opposed to those who were “desire based” (performance conscious).

When asked about the most important attribute of a paid music streaming service, 39% cited “control; Pure on-Demand” as opposed to curated type services, while 11% cited “Sound quality as good as the recording studio” and another 11% cited “Work wirelessly in my car”.

Another post-research breakdown divided Hi-Res customers into two groups: one called “LISTENing” and the other called “HEARing”. The former self-identified as “Music Enthusiast” interested in an “enjoyable experience”, while defining good audio as sounding like “Going to a concert”. The “HEARing” group consisted of self-described “audiophiles” looking for “Clear, crisp sound” who defined good audio as sounding like “Being in the studio”.

A slide showed Hi-Res audio product manufacturers including audioquest, Ayre, dCS, Marantz, Esoteric, Audioengine, Chord, TEAC, Sony, etc.

Sony’s Senior Content Trainer JP Torres presented an overview of Sony’s Hi-Res products that were on display in the studio, including Hi-Res “Walkman” type portable players, an automobile “head unit” and a few others.

A panel discussion followed, titled “The Prospects For Hi-Res Music” moderated by Finer, with panelists Nate Albert (Executive VP, A&R Capitol Records), Jim Belcher (VP, Technology & Production, Universal Music Group), and Maureen Droney (Managing Director, The Recording Academy P&E Wing (Producers and Engineers).

The discussion touched upon what labels were doing to insure that new productions are recorded in hi-res, and how catalog was being preserved at 192/24 bit resolution.

The upshot of the discussion was that the labels know archiving must be at the highest possible resolution and that new recordings should be produced at a 24 bit resolution regardless of the sampling rate, but that it too should be at least 48kHz. Also mentioned frequently was the importance of the vinyl resurgence to consumer interest in better sound.

After a “coffee break” at which guests were offered “studio quality” coffee with powdered creamer and a box of Dunkin’ Donuts ( I know the labels are hurting, but jeez…) the attendees were broken down into three groups to partake in three experiences: product stations in the studio where Sony employees demoed the various Hi-Res Sony products, a listening session in Sony’s Hi-Res traveling van packed with a state of the art car system that took up all but the front two seats, and a studio session in the “Studio A” control room where Capitol Audio engineer Steve Genewick compared a vinyl transfer of a vintage mono Frank Sinatra tune with an early CD version (“when we removed hiss along with much of the music”), and then with a later CD version (“during the loudness wars”) and finally the latest 192/24 bit transfer.

When I asked what turntable, cartridge and phono preamp was used for the transfer, Genewick couldn’t answer. It probably was nothing special, yet it still sounded better than both CD versions but not as good as the 192/24 bit file, which had more bass than I’d ever heard from that particular track and sounded ‘bumped’ in the bass, though Genewick insisted it was a flat transfer.

I made clear to UMG’s Belcher that I felt purchasers of both hi-resolution files and vinyl were entitled to know the source used to produce the files and/or vinyl, the resolution of the files in the case of digital masters, who mastered and where, and in the case of vinyl, where the records were pressed. He agreed those were important and that UMG at least, was committed to provided as much metadata as possible to produce as complete as possible experience.

As someone who fought to save vinyl, criticized CD resolution as inadequate (for both listening and especially for archiving purposes), the Hi-Res Syposium was music to my ears and vindication for decades’ worth of lobbying and agitating.

The record labels are listening. Are the consumers? Only time will tell, but meanwhile, for those who care about sound quality, these are the best of times.

fetuso's picture

I have several of the 75th anniversary blue not vinyl issues and they are nothing special. I have no idea if that is a result of the digital file, or the pressing.

Where do think MQA fits into all this, and have you heard it?

doak's picture

The Blue Note reissues by Music Matters are a prime example of how good these can be when all the details are attended to properly and openly. Results are, in every way, a premium quality product.

fetuso's picture

Yes, I have a number of the MM releases and they sound wonderful. I also like the Analogue Productions releases as well.

myheroiscoltrane's picture

Note, however, that the MM reissues are all analog, with lacquers cut from the original master tapes. The Capitol/Blue Note reissues are cut from digital transfers.

doak's picture

Maybe should be word of the year or decade.
"I made clear to UMG’s Belcher that I felt purchasers of both hi-resolution files and vinyl were entitled to know the source used to produce the files and/or vinyl, the resolution of the files in the case of digital masters, who mastered and where, and in the case of vinyl, where the records were pressed."
Thanks Michael, for putting and hopefully keeping this most important issue in front of them. Can't be said too often or too loudly IMO. Rub their noses in it until it sticks.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Any archiving needs to be at a minimum of 2496 and should be 24192 or DSD. This is an esteemed group and they should know this by now. I wish I knew the reasoning behind not doing the highest bit rate they can? Is this material not important enough to them? It has to be as it is their business.

PAR's picture

Many digital recordings were originally mastered at 24/48 as that data rate is a studio commonplace. If the minimum standard were set at 24/96 then that could only be achieved for those files by upsampling which is not desirable. Also still very few original masters are produced at 24/192 and hardly any in DSD. Were the latter formats to be selected as a minimum standard for archiving then the vast majority of masters would need to be upsampled and thus be fixed for eternity with the upsampling algorithms that happened to be in use at a given historical point.

As 24/48 it is only a minimum standard that would not preclude masters that were originated at higher data rates being archived at those higher rates.

Of course archiving analogue masters is another issue and is where those higher rates may be appropriate for digitisation but where the retention of the analogue original should be mandatory for the future.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I am not worried about what is already done. The fact that previous mistakes were made using ProTools at 2448 is what it is. When I have CDs of singers in which I often cannot make out the lyrics they are singing, something is amiss and often it is in the mastering (some houses are better than others), but starting out with more would be a big help. I am not a fan of up sampling as I find it more of a marketing ploy when it is too easy today to start out with more in the tracking. The point of all of this is if you intend to do a reissue. What we are learning now is that everything matters and much of the original tracking material has not been stored well, is in poor condition, or that the tracking tapes are not around, or we are dealing with a 2nd or 3rd generation mix down tape.

If many find that tracking at 30 ips on tape and mixing down to two track at 15ips produces a better product, the the same would apply to new material if tracked at 2496 or 24192, capturing much more of the original performance that at 2448. If moving from 30ips and a mix down in analogue form is ACCEPTABLE, then so is moving from 2496 or 24192 with conversion to analogue and then converted to what ever format you want, redbook(?), or just just released as a high rez download would be much better. 24192 sounds so great and so analogue to me that it seems a mistake to not do this for important artists. Many of you with very resolving systems could hear it much better than I.

I would rather see the tracking master done at 2496 and really, 24192, and then mix down to two track in a Tascam DA-3000 to 24192 or DSD for archiving. At least this way we are storing more of a performance than we are now. No one will convince me this is a money issue anymore as HD space is cheap and most converters today are capable of 24192 and are very affordable. This is more a matter of will, not money.

We have also read that going in multiples of the redbook sample rate is preferable, 44.1, 88.2, 176.4 for "seemingly" proper converting back to the CD standard for release. MY own experience tells me that the files that I have made at 24192 and then converted to redbook in Sony Sound Forge still sound great, and even better to me (at least as good) than the just recording at redbook and doing nothing to the files. The files that I record at 2496 and 24192 and played back in that "native format" sound so much better, and I don't own any expensive ADDA's. If I can hear the improvement with what I have I know that the converters these major studios use would be superb.

This is not about digital conversion inside a DAW which is how most studios do it. 48khz to 44.1 kHz is done all the time. This is about capturing more of the original performance at 24192 and then moving it anyway one prefers into the selling format one wishes. It would not matter to me if one took 16 tracks of 24192 and then mixed them down to 2 track 15ips for mastering. This would sound much better than what we are doing now. Plus you would be starting with a much lower noise floor. I know that would sound better than anything done at 2448 no matter how you prepare it for sale. You capture less, you end up with less. There is no other way it can be, but at least you start out with more and then can make your marketing decisions, but you will end up with a better product, regardless.

No one ever convince me that 2448 is a high rez format, and if you have really heard native 2496 or 24192 files you would also be convinced. Even my friends who are not audiophiles can hear the improvement. I have found it especially true when I record a performance of a choral group and trying to keep the clarity of the signing of mass voices, this requires the most resolution possible, quiet mics, good mic preamps, and a very quiet venue with the HVAC system turned off. Here I always do 24192 and will mix that down to 2496 and burn those high rez files to DVD-R for playback in just about any DVD player. My last high school choral group took those files from their concert, listened to their performance and spent to weeks prior to their state competition to work to improve their articulation. They won first place at state. It was much easier for then to hear where they could improve. Though a good system the improvement cannot be ignored. Improvements are heard even on less expensive DVD players.

Even the files that Michael Fremer shares with us from the LP tests recorded at 2496 and run through the YouTube Meat grinder as he calls it, sound very good, but he is starting out with more. It hardly makes sense to do just redbook for this when your ultimate goal is to hear MORE.

Just my 2 cents, but it works for me in my work. It has to work for the major labels as well, if they cared enough to do it.

PAR's picture

...I specifically said that I was referring to archiving. This was related to the part of Michael's piece which unfortunately includes archiving and the production of new material in the same sentence concerning minimum data rates which served to confuse things a bit.

Should new production masters be at higher rez rates? Sounds fine to me. However in answer to the question of whether or not the record companies will do it there is a single consideration. Will they make more money from it? Failing a positive answer then it will not be worthwhile their investing in.

Ortofan's picture

...turntable, cartridge and phono preamp that Sony used for the disc transfer was this:

StonedBeatles1's picture


doak's picture


Michael Fremer's picture
This was done by Capitol Studios.
Ortofan's picture

...Capitol and Sony, you're positive that no Sony equipment was used for the disc transfer?

Maury's picture

Two years ago DEG issued a press release as followa:

Arlington, VA – 06/12/2014 – DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® and The Recording Academy®, announced today the results of their efforts to create a formal definition for High Resolution Audio, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.

The definition is accompanied by a series of descriptors for the Master Quality Recordings that are used to produce the hi-res files available to digital music retailers. These can be used on a voluntary basis to provide the latest and most accurate information to consumers.

The descriptors include:

MQ-P. From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content)
MQ-A. From an analog master source
MQ-C. From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content)
MQ-D. From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)

So is DEG still using this as their hi res coding standard? Obviously it is not the last word in transparency of source (no pun intended) since MQ-P is only 48/20 or higher (you have to guess), MQ-C is a CD now defined as Hi Res Master Quality and MQ-A is an analog source from 78RPM to vinyl. Apparently converting the analog source to digital does not change the source and therefore the designation either.

I hope someone will tell me DEG has either dropped this or at least improved it? I'm often the last to know so excuse me if this was recently covered.

PeterPani's picture

Hi-Res will (sometimes already does) sound as good as the best analog produced and reproduced music. It even can sound better. I have some 24/48 files that sound better than my tape reels. But after several songs digital does not connect with my soul the same way as analog. I can play one tape (or old vinyl) over and over during one listening session. After one Hi-Res album I need rest from digital. I wonder, whether that feelings will ever change?

Jim Tavegia's picture

I have never had trouble listening to high rez files for extended periods, if even 2496 downloads from eClassical and then burned to DVD-Rs with Cirlinca for playback in my old Sony DVP-NS 755S DVD/SACD players (I own 3 of them). It takes a little effort, but worth it to me. All of the files I buy from them are native 2496.

I just bought some form PrimePhonics and did the same thing and they sound great. They also sent me a 24192 file that played back in my computer sounds remarkable. I have not gotten into BlueRay burning yet as I find that 2496 playback suits me just fine for now. If it is native it sounds great to me in 2496. Even the few lp transfers done to 2496 are excellent.

I even took that 24192 file and converted it to 2496 in Sony Sound Forge and it still sounds great. We all know some DACs sound better then others, even if they are in the $2K range. You just have to find one that mates well with your total system.

PeterPani's picture

for HiRes. My HiFi is all tubed (all eqipment of the mid50's) with not one transistor in the way. It seems to be problematic, if the source input is from a computer station into a tubed chain. But I don't want to change to solid state. I am afraid, my analog sources would not be able to develop their full potential then.

Jim Tavegia's picture

If your tubed gear is in proper operating condition ( I have no doubt that it is) you should still be able to hear the improvements, if they are there. It should even make poor sounding digital recordings sound better, at least it could.

There are so many factors that come into play. Many love the sound of the latest Benchmark DAC and others like a warmer presentation. I don't know if at 69 I could hear THAT difference. The fact that I can hear what I hear from my poorman's $150 Steinberg UR-22 USB 24/192 interface surprises me at times, but I do own some very nice cans (AKG K-701s, 2 pair of K-271 for recording, & a pair of Focal Spirit Pros). I still enjoy my Grado 80's which are pretty nice for all of $99 for general computer listening. I still keep my 2 pair of Sony 7506's around for vocal training, but do not use them for general listening or mastering anymore. They tend to push to voice more forward in tracking and can help a performer hear themselves better, but they are not accurate. They do serve a purpose in my studio.

The Sony DVD 755 DVD-SACD players I use got excellent reviews when they came out, but I would certainly look at the new OPPO or new Denon DN-500DB player for $399 to play back high rez files and CDs. I have even compared the digital out of those players with some high end DACs and could not say the sound was "better", but that is always in the ears of the beholder anyway.

I also run the audio out of my Steinberg into my stereo for direct comparison of the files out of my computer vs the burned DVD-Rs and can tell no difference from the Sony playback, as both sound excellent.

I do find the Sony Sound Forge an excellent program and pretty intuitive to use. I will admit that the redbook work I do when burned with Sony CD Architect sound better than any other CD burning software I've tried.

If you do buy many high rez files then programs like JRiver would be a must to properly manage and play them back. Cheap enough to do. Others are better and more costly.

PeterPani's picture

and a friend of mine tried the new Nagra DAC, that really sounds fantastic. But after several played files it is so much fun to change to my old TD 124 or my r2r. Even the analog tracks of laserdiscs (best sound media ever, if used fully analog, in my opinion) beat any digital format after longer listening. Ah yes, don't worry about the ears. My ear specialist told me that only few people are really loosing their hearing potential in a significant way. I will come back to Hires seriously again, when the resolution comes to 4096kHz/128bit to make new comparisons. At the moment I am tired of all the changing digital formats. On my TD124 I can play 78's that are nearly hundred years old by now...

Jim Tavegia's picture

The only problem with vinyl is that to do it close to right you must spend close to $2K on a decent table and phono stage, and the sound quality is all over the place depending upon who pressed what. I have no problem with vinyl and enjoy it greatly, but 24192 done right is so wonderful and can be listened to on your computer for well under $500 easily with a nice USB DAC and a set of cans. Most people would think that to spend $2k on a TT rig is just crazy, but we know it is not.

I also agree that one can spend good money on a great DAC to hear redbook and better played back well. Many DCS customers would agree to that.

The issue for me here is for the industry to try and sell us that 2448 is high resolution is their marketing ploy, but not the truth when everyone knows that 2496 and 24192 downloads are out there and some have made recordings at 24384, but it would take some system to resolve THAT improvement over 24192 I would think and is just not practical, where 2496 & 24192 are practical and readily available to just about anyone who cares.

When you have time check out and and give them a try. They had a free special off of Facebook over the last few days. With eClassical just check and make sure the native format was 2496 to hear all that can be offered. They have great prices. I have never been disappointed with either of them.

Jim Tavegia's picture
Focusrite makes excellent gear and it would be as good as the Steinberg UR-22MK2 version I would think. Both are $150 and come with free software. No one could go wrong with either one in trying to experience quality playback of high rez files on the cheap.

singhcr's picture

Thanks for this news, Mikey- it made my day.

I would prefer 192/24 or 96/24 PCM or some form of DSD, but even 48/24 is a tremendous improvement over 44/16. If we start seeing 24 bit releases as standard, I'd be happy.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I had totally forgotten about this and once you put your product out there in high rez you have lost control of a very good product. The unscrupulous will always hold things back. I had forgotten about this important business consideration.

Mister Tim's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't UMG one of the biggest proponents and practioners of digital watermarking? I've seen complaints on many forums and some debate on whether it's just streaming sites like Tidal or download sites where this issue has been reported. I've never knowingly encountered it myself and am wary of rumormongering, but that's a huge quality issue for digital audiophiles if true.

Nellomilanese's picture

You'd think that in 2016, with all the technology and all we "know" now, we'd FINALLY be able to agree on a definitive format AND GIVE IT A REST for f**ck sake. But no, in the last 30 years, we as humanity adopted (or pushed to) the cd, the cassette, the MiniDisc (yes albums were released in MD format!), then Sacd, then the *cough* mp3, Hi-Res, now MQA, not to mention Bluray Audio which is DOA. That's EIGHT formats in 30 years...ONE EVERY FOUR YEARS. And I haven't even mentioned Dvd-Audio.
Everytime they come up with a new format they call it THE DEFINITIVE.
Pardon me for NOT GIVING A F**K about digital anymore.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Mister Tim's picture


Jim Tavegia's picture

I still use my Sony mini disc recorder (because I still have it) and my Sony DTC-690 DAT for recording NPR radio broadcasts I want to save. I do find that my newer Tascam DR-2Ds that can do 2496 with SDHC cards are very nice for the same thing, but overkill for FM recording, but better for portability.

But even with these little SDHC recorders @ 2496 sounds very nice. I would urge anyone to look at the Tascam DR-40 if you like to do high rez needle drops as it sounds great and is easy to move files by USB into you computer. All you really need to do it right and it has balance I/O if that matters to you. Plus you can carry them along with you for portable listening.

My newer Tascam DR-680 MK2 does 6 tracks at 2496 and can do 2 at 24192 and really sounds great. At $599 or less some places about the price of a nice phono preamp. It gives one the chance to see what hire can do for very little money.

But I see this 2448 decision as another failed attempt by the labels to not do the right thing. 2496 & 24192 are high rez and are practical playback formats for downloads that anyone can afford with all the USB DACs out there.

I don't view this any differently that all of the phono cartridges, phono stages, and turntables and arms that are for sale. It is really just a matter of what does one want to do?

kronning's picture

for being our advocate at these types of meetings.

TommyTunes's picture

I purchased the Astell&Kerns Blue Note edition which came with 75 Blue Note albums in 24/192. I'm not sure how these files were created but they don't compare to either the Mudic Matters 45/33 or obviously the original pressings. I will evrn go as far as saying that the 1st issue Ron McMasters CD's sound better.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I thought that JA did a review of the AK and really liked it. Do you think the internal headphone amp needs break in or something else? What cans do you use? I have a number of pairs and they all sound different to a degree. Now that I am older I prefer my AKG K701 (open) and my AKG K-271s (closed), but I also enjoy the Focal Spirit Pros which are a much warmer presentation.

TommyTunes's picture

I was commenting on the dound quality of the BN high res files. The players are great sounfing I hsve two AK380's copper and regular and an AK240. I use them with either Sennheiser 800S or Audeze LCD-X

vqworks's picture

The concerns about disclosing the source of both Hi-Res audio downloads and vinyl pressings, bit rate and sampling rate are definitely important concerns.

But before anyone can even address those issues, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the very common problem of off-centered LP spindle holes. Regardless of how great an LP sounds, the off-centered hole can and does cause audible and sometimes very fatiguing eccentric wow. If the wow is sufficiently bad, it can even drive some of us to settle for a CD alternative.

If the music companies won't address the issue than the turntable manufacturers need to. It's a given that most vinyl pressings are off-centered to varying degrees. At the hardware end, no current manufacturer that I'm aware of has produced a solution (either through a detachable spindle that can be re-centered and re-attached firmly or a self-centering platter system similar to the Nakamichi Dragon CT or TX-1000).

I guess I'm the only one who may be bothered by this problem.