A "Visit" to Dr. Mark Waldrep's Website "Real HD-audio.com"

A recent comment posted under the story "Anonymous Mastering Engineer's Take on The Beatles MONO Box Set" prompted me to check out a recent post by AIX's Dr. Mark Waldrep on his site real HD Audio. I've appropriated the site's logo without permission but I can't imagine he'd object to the publicity and if he does I will take it down.

The comment on this site was about something Dr. Waldrep had passed on, which was a comment by the recording engineer Allen Sides, who told Dr. Waldrep that he'd heard that the reason there wasn't much bass on early Beatle albums was that the Abbey Road engineers had restricted the bass below 40-60Hz on the Studer tape recorders. Since the bass was on the tapes, though not on the early LP pressings—as anyone can hear who has compared the original pressings with the new LP reissues (or who has actually heard the tapes)— I figured I'd visit the site and throw in my own 2 cents.

When I got there I found a really interesting post by Dr. Waldrep dated October 23rd, 2014 titled Let's Talk to Professionals that I recommend you read. You'll find highly amusing/enjoying/frustrating/damn annoying Dr. Waldrep's encounters with engineers and the attitude of some of them towards "audiophiles."

Dr. Waldrep, who runs an "audiophile" label is more tolerant and understanding of audiophiles than are some of the engineers and he's more than willing to bust them when regarding high resolution digital audio he states "The reality is that engineers don’t really have the facts and they don’t really care. Their goal is to produce recordings that the labels and producers are willing to release…not ones that actually sound good."

But he also dips into condescension and mixed metaphors in describing audiophile "tweaks" recounting a conversation he had with a studio owner who saw lunacy in what audiophiles do. The studio owner ".... rolled his eyes and said, “don’t audiophiles know that we don’t use any of that stuff while we’re making records?” Waldrep responded "that (he thought) many are aware of the basics of audio production but they feel that they can get more out of the tracks with exotic cables, special treatments, and hocus pocus accessories."

I don't know about the "hocus locus" part, but I do know about cables and I do know that more and more mastering facilities are upgrading their cabling because the mastering engineers can hear the improvement. Maybe if the studio owner would sit down and listen he might consider using some of "that stuff"!

In any case, Waldrep's post is definitely worth a read but equally worthwhile reading are the comments below it. They caused me to post a few things that will surely piss off some of the posters (what else is new?). I posted this:

"I have to just laugh at the sarcasm and cynicism here about "audiophiles." I doubt most of you have actually heard a great audio system so you are forgiven for your condescension. It is based on ignorance.

The pros I've managed to snag for a listen to a really great system quickly lose their snotty attitude (the same one they accuse "audio fools" of having).

And of course there are many pros who are also audiophiles. The notion that there's an inherent divide is silly. I've visited Roy Halee's home a number of times and he's got quite the audiophile rig and he prefers vinyl. But what does the engineer/producer of many classical sessions and albums by Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan, The Byrds (etc.) know about good sound? (Answer: his recordings sound better than 90% of today's tripe).

I was at the AES in 1983 (could be one year on either side of that) when the CD was rolled out for the first time. They played Roxy Music's "Avalon". The sound was unbearable. While it played, all hard, flat and edgy, I said to myself "it's new technology it will improve but so far blechh".

When the demo was over all of the engineers around me were Gobsmacked by the "fantastic" sound. Recorded sound has deteriorated from there but you'd need to visit an "audiofool" for a demonstration of why that assertion is 100% correct.

What's particularly hilarious is the sour attitude towards the only people who are actually paying attention to your work."

isaacrivera's picture

Just the other day I joined a vinyl forum. I had found a topic in it that I was interested in, so I registered to be able to join the conversation. As I started reading some of the member's posts, I came a across a long sarcastic thread against audiophiles. In response to someone's already sarcastic comment, someone wrote, "That's nothing, some people out here in California actually believe the choice of cables can improve sound!"

But that is just the thing, it is perceived as a BELIEF, when it is, in all the cases I know of, empirical knowledge. People have experienced the difference a particular cable has on sound, which they then tend to prefer or dislike.

You may not have experienced this things yourself because you have not done a/b comparisons, have not trained your listening habits to pay attention to the qualities of sound that are affected by cables or your current system can't resolve the differences between two cables. These are all possible, but that does not mean that others can't experience, appreciate and even seek those differences. I, for one, have never experienced what happens in a cyclotron, but I do not pretend to deny the realities of sub-atomic physics because of my very limited experience.

I remember when I started playing around with cables I thought there would probably be some differences because it seems logical to me that different materials and geometries would certainly affect the qualities of sound, but I was hoping those differences would be slight, as I did not want to open another avenue of possible improvements to my system. The cables in question were Analysis Oval 9's vs. Radio Shack thick copper speaker cable. Unfortunately, even with my very modest system back then, the differences were huge. In the decade since, my system has evolved a lot and cables have always been a careful consideration.

doddsainoz's picture

I'll have agree,even in my modest system the cables I have chosen make a very large difference in the reproduced sound. Most engineers and the like are stll only working to make a living and most of us bend for a dollar.

Paul Boudreau's picture

"The sound was unbearable. While it played, all hard, flat and edgy, I said to myself 'it's new technology it will improve but so far blechh'."

Blecch indeed. I remember the first time I heard some of them that same year at a friend's house (Sony CDP-101 player, I forget what the other equipment was). We were both ready for great sound and were excited about "digital" plus the discs looked so cool and rainbow-y. What we got sounded so bad that it gave me a stomach ache, seriously.

As far as why the condescension towards "audiphools," it's fun to sneer at luddites, if you are dim enough to think that anything newer is necessarily better.

J.D.'s picture

Because I believe the scoffingly derisive 'insider'-- (quite often just industry-adjacent rather than a studio man himself)--- and the hairshirt ear-candling audiophile-- are the same guy, different suburb, may have that same state-U undergrad degree, and grew up in the same kinds of places ... I think there's room here for peace.

Just as it's important to recognize that the audiophile market sector is often plagued by bullshit 'innovations' that make anyone who ever dropped out of an Engineering program at community college scoff--- So too is it important to remember that over half the Industry-Adjacent loudmouths have never mixed down audio tracks for a paycheck or set a mike in a live, for-profit recording studio.

On internet venues, more often than not, we've got inflated-credentials audio "veterans" (who may have once worked in the outer layers of a media corporation, perhaps filing requests for executive travel arrangements or something similarly vital) telling us that cabling, sample rates, amp configuration, speaker setup.. don't really matter much in our era; the digits are too damned good. On the opposite hand, of course, we have audio morons playing their Dianna Krall recordings thousands of times in a row to determine things like where the TipToes should go on the cd player. Telling the world, after their titanic struggles, exactly what comprises "transparent to the source material" .. having never been close to that source material, or any other, of course.

In the end it comes to little schoolboy oneupsmanship contests. I know good sound because I work in the same building as a radio station downtown. I know good sound because in the seventies my college roommate had a full McIntosh system. My brother-in-law was once a soundman for Pat Benetar and he says that the best sound (uses frayed cables, uses pennies in the fuseholders, uses the 6ohz hum off the mains to reinforce the low end, etc).

Whether so-called 'veteran' or hapless amateur, a lot comes to distantly remembered sonic-superiority things, back "in the day" or in the glory years. Of someone else's career.

But these are all pretty useless kinds of epicureanism. Not everybody is a fraud. There are real, hands-on, informed industry voices. What I think the actual industry studio man forgets is that, yeah, even with his bog-standard miles of canare cabling and electrovoice mikes, he's used to monitoring a live feed from a competent professional musician, one who can play his way around the flaws & shortcomings of most stages and studios in town, upscale or downscale. So he's used to an Embarrassment Of Riches. Even the most unimaginative of recording techniques is going to pull down a competent track from a session, even given the lowest common denominator on the studio side. Even a dull mixdown is going to sound fine, coming from the Studer under all those newspapers and coffee cups in the corner. So his day-to-day has nothing to compare with an audiophile trying to best set up a system that can make fifties jazz or forties swing sound like a live feed.

The differences in program are so very far apart as to defeat comparison; to bring the schoolboy one-up contest to an opposition of apples and oranges is never going to give legit conclusions.
And it really has to be said: a "studio owner" may be much more concerned about his lease being renewed or leaks in the ceiling than say, replacing tubes or managing micro acoustics; once we get involved with letting "ownership" or "management" tell us what's what with the culture of music and recording, we're lost.
Safe to say, also, that any time you get somebody barking about how they've 'done this since forever' and small specifics don't matter-- you've got trouble. Credibility trouble.

johntoste's picture

Thanks for constantly taking the fight to the "esteemed opposition".
Your clear and cogent arguments would blow their minds if there was a crack for the clarity to enter.
What amazes me is the vitriol from those who rate "audiophiles" a couple of steps below pedophiles.
I feel sorry for those who can't hear the difference.

amarok89's picture

Please post the link to the pedophiles comment. I want to add to the rightious vitriol toward those that dare suggest we associate with such. As you say, clarity is needed in these discussions. Good for you to point this out.

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm the one who made the association as a joke in the sense that if you ask people which is worse and with which you'd prefer to be identified, some wold have to think a bit before answering. Of course that's a joke! Everyone knows the answer is "pedophile" over "audiophile".
VirginVinyl's picture

Lets face it, some people can hear the difference. Age, social behaviour and career choice may have a direct impact. Like may individuals we all have deficiency, glasses to better our sight. Hearing is not immune to these deficiency. I can see why some people voice blah blah claims. I'm ok by this. I know what I want and I try to achieve what I want to hear. With other individuals, music is not part of there lives. I'm ok with that. With handicaps, such as; blindness and hearing lose some of the greatest composer have merged. It's the spirit that drives these individuals that go beyond and fill the room with joy. I've studied Jazz in college and I can say that there is a big difference between reading the pretty dot's on music sheet and having the music. That's what separates (amateurs vs professionals).
Some would ague that some engineers don't know any better. I would say, that's not true, many devote there lives to capturing the creativity and magic that happens in a controlled environment. Capturing the essence of a musical vibe is hard and a struggle that everyone in a studio working on the project is not immune to. It's hard to describe the studio experiance, compare to dropping the needle on your turntable and sit back and partaking in the magical ride. The audience is unaware of many performances that were performed to chase that sound, that feeling. It doesn't end in the studio its perpetual and goes to the mastering stage and to manufacture stage.