Rip and Burn: Sinclair and Sanders
The highlight of the VRS Audio Solutions room was witnessing VRS' Vincent R. Sanders and Neil Sinclair (high-end pioneer and former owner of Theta Digital) engage in a heated discussion over optimal methods for achieving hard disk-stored music playback. These two went at it as if dealing with life and death itself. Which, in the case of high-end audio, isn't far from the truth.
Sanders has created the VRS Revelation DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), "a three-component sonic solution based on the Apple/Mac platform that consists of playback software, an external clock, and an external DAC....The VRS Revelation DAW will extract digital audio from CDs and DVDs, download high-resolution music files, and record analog sources, then play all back in ultra-fidelity." Sanders has been perfecting the system for years, and hopes to have it on the market within six months.
VRS isn't the only game in town, of course. Not by a long shot. But Sanders insistence that he pulls data from discs by simply copying it, rather than using algorithms that manipulate bits while ripping data, challenged Sinclair's experience. "I've used every ripping agent out there," said Sanders, "and each one sounds different. It's the same with every lossless compressed file. If you reconstruct a lossless compressed file, you change the data."
Sinclair retorted that he had listened to every ripping agent and lossless compression scheme out there, and did not think that all of them manipulated and contorted data to the point of audibility. Or something to that effect.
As the conversation progressed—and progress it did—each learned that the had both been professional percussionists in former lifetimes. Sinclair also spent a brief period working as a mastering engineer. Thus Sanders struck a chord when he passionately declared, "We need studio quality, not CD quality... I want a system that allows you to hear the whole heart and soul I poured it out as a studio musician. You can't get that by burning a CD."
Sanders went on to criticize USB, which he asserts was never designed to convey audio, and instead praised firewire. "USB2 can finally do 24/96," he said, "but it can neither do multi-channel nor convey Reference Recordings' 24/176.4."
My two cents. Whichever way does it best (that I can afford) works for me. I applaud these two men for their commitment to helping us achieve Audio Nirvana.