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CharlyD
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Re: SACD mistakes


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In short, this is pure pap! The year long fiasco is well documented on the net via numerous assorted forum postings. The deception continues today.


My experience with HDTracks was certainly not commensurate with a company attempting to deceive. I did some searching to find the history of this and found a posting by Bruce Brown who performs much of HDTrack's remastering. Much of HDTracks content is from other studios where they have no control of the recording/mastering process. Bruce reported that several of the albums provided as hi-res by these other vendors turned out to be upsampled red book. This also included SACD disks! Bruce was not checking the spectral content of these albums prior to (or after) remastering.

Quote:
Perhaps Art could turn his attentions to the hucksters within the industry he writes about who continue to fleece the 'simple' audiophile!


I completly agree! It costs less than a dime to serve a hi-res album as digital files vs. a few dollars to manufacture and distribute physical disks.

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Re: SACD mistakes


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It costs less than a dime to serve a hi-res album as digital files vs. a few dollars to manufacture and distribute physical disks.

The physical cost of the medium is the smallest cost that needs to be recouped from a sale. Copyright, royalties, and the need to recover the fixed overhead involved in the making of the recording dominate. See http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/578/ . I wrote these thoughts 8 years ago, but they are still applicable.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


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It costs less than a dime to serve a hi-res album as digital files vs. a few dollars to manufacture and distribute physical disks.

The physical cost of the medium is the smallest cost that needs to be recouped from a sale. Copyright, royalties, and the need to recover the fixed overhead involved in the making of the recording dominate. See http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/578/ . I wrote these thoughts 8 years ago, but they are still applicable.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

If what you wrote, both quoted above and in the As We See It article, is true (and I have absolutely no reason to doubt you) then the record industry straight out lied to the consumers back in the early days of the CD. If you remember back when the CD first was first introduced it was priced well above the going rate for the LP and audio cassette. Why so expensive we asked. The answer we received was that the MANUFACTURING cost of the CD were very high but as the medium caught hold and sales increased economy of scale would take over and the prices would drop.

Well sales took off but CD prices never came down.

Fast forward to present day: Now we're being told that MANUFACTURING cost are relatively insignificant and it's the cost of actually producing/recording the music that really matter. So now downloads, with very small, if any, MANUFACTURING costs, cost as much and in some cases more than the physical CD. Talk about having one's cake and eating it!

I have a completely different, one word explanation for the high cost of downloads:

GREED

CharlyD
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Re: SACD mistakes

Thanks for the response John!

My point was that total costs for distributing an album as digital files is actually lower than the total costs for physical media. The other costs you outline are fixed regardless of the distribution method. The costs for remastering to an encoded file playable on consumer equipment does not warrant the increase in price.

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Re: SACD mistakes


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If you remember back when the CD first was first introduced it was priced well above the going rate for the LP and audio cassette. Why so expensive we asked. The answer we received was that the MANUFACTURING cost of the CD were very high but as the medium caught hold and sales increased economy of scale would take over and the prices would drop.

This did indeed happen, The first CD I produced, the first HFN/RR test CD in 1985, with booklet, traycard, and jewelcase, cost the magazine around $15 each from Denon, for a production run of 5000. These days, a production run of 5000 units would be available for around $1.25 each, again including booklet etc. As I wrote, only when you are talking about production runs of >200,00 or 300,000 does the costs of the physical medium drop to inconsequential levels.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


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This did indeed happen, The first CD I produced, the first HFN/RR test CD in 1985, with booklet, traycard, and jewelcase, cost the magazine around $15 each from Denon, for a production run of 5000. These days, a production run of 5000 units would be available for around $1.25 each, again including booklet etc. As I wrote, only when you are talking about production runs of >200,00 or 300,000 does the costs of the physical medium drop to inconsequential levels.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

So by that logic, exactly what is the explanation of the high cost of high resolution downloads versus the cost of high resolution physical media (think SACD), both formats which are likely to have relatively low sales, in each case much less than the 200,000 to 300,000 units needed to reduce the cost of the physical media to "inconsequential levels"?

Again my one word explanation of "GREED" appears to fit the bill.

Oh wait I think I have it: for years the record companies have been losing money on all titles which sell less than the magic 200,000 to 300,000 unit inconsequential cost level and it is only via the sales of titles selling over this amount that these unpopular titles can be sold for such a bargain.

So I guess that it really was jazz and classical music (just two of the many musical genres which don't sell above that magic 200,000 to 300,000 unit inconsequential cost level) which lead to the fall of the wonderful and deeply magnanimous record companies. I'm so sorry that I did not understand this issue.

It's either that or GREED - take your pick.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes

AMGCDS in Atlanta

I am not sure what the overriding issues are, but it is not disc cost. Unfortunately it cost more to market a group that it does to make the finished product. A warehouse full of CDs or DVDs that no one knows about is not much good.

Since radio is dead (the way I heard new music in the 50's and 60's) artists have a tough road to travel. I don't have an answer for that one.

I would think that it would be reasonable for a high rez download to be $15.00 for 8-12 songs. To not price your product so many will buy it fails the marketing 101 test. Ultimately goods are only worth what someone will pay. And that is why we have Overstock.com . Partially anyway.

None of us can tell someone at what price to sell their wares. I do have the right to say no sale.

It may be that a new section could be added to the Recommended Components listing of the website of Artists that the Phile staff would be of interest to the readers of Phile and who buy the Buyers Guide. Just like products are removed occasionally for a lack of recent review, a group could be dropped if they have not done anything reviewers deem worth while. I know it is subjective, but so is everything these days.

All the writers who do the R2D4 list could just keep their recommendations coming in. If the groups and artists do a good job of keeping their websites up and offer hirez 2496 pcm downloads like Bluecoast, life could become very interesting. No flac, just like BlueCoast has done.

My BlueCoast comp disc sounds great.

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Re: SACD mistakes


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I did some searching to find the history of this and found a posting by Bruce Brown who performs much of HDTrack's remastering.

Lies, Damn Lies and

Drtrey3
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Re: SACD mistakes

"the record industry straight out lied"

I think you had it right there. 'Nuff said.

Trey - who was married to a record industry executive

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Re: SACD mistakes


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exactly what is the explanation of the high cost of high resolution downloads versus the cost of high resolution physical media (think SACD), both formats which are likely to have relatively low sales, in each case much less than the 200,000 to 300,000 units needed to reduce the cost of the physical media to "inconsequential levels"?

It's an interesting point. I do know that the small companies that released SACDs in the first few years of the format's launch were heavily subsidized by Sony. When the subsidy money dried up, so did the new releases from those companies. The retail price of those SACDs bore no relation to the actual costs.


Quote:
Again my one word explanation of "GREED" appears to fit the bill.

With respect, you appear to be making a moral issue out of something that is more connected with a company's need to cover its costs, make a profit, and invest in new projects.

And again, I must point out that for a typical release, the physical cost of the medium is a small fraction of the cost a record company incurs per disc sold. Eliminating that cost will not by itself give rise to a big drop in price. So yes, while a major company that sells >200,000 copies of a title is making out like gangbusters, I don't see the proprietors of indie record companies flush in cash. It is possible that a download price of $20 is fair and, given the niche nature of the music, lowering the price will not result in a compensatory increase in sales numbers.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


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A lot of material in the past was recorded at "only" 24/44.1 during the beginning of digital.

A historical note: All digital recordings for CD release were made with first 14-bit then 16-bit word length and sample rates of 44.1kHz and 48kHz from 1980 through 1990, when delta-signal A/D converters offering 18-bit resolution began to appear. 20-bit converters started to be used around 1995, but were limited to 44.1kHz and 48kHz sample rates. The first commercial double-sample-rate converters with a claimed 24-bit resolution appeared in late 1996 from dCS and Prismsound.

John Atkinson
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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:

Quote:
exactly what is the explanation of the high cost of high resolution downloads versus the cost of high resolution physical media (think SACD), both formats which are likely to have relatively low sales, in each case much less than the 200,000 to 300,000 units needed to reduce the cost of the physical media to "inconsequential levels"?

It's an interesting point. I do know that the small companies that released SACDs in the first few years of the format's launch were heavily subsidized by Sony. When the subsidy money dried up, so did the new releases from those companies. The retail price of those SACDs bore no relation to the actual costs.

I'm sorry to be such a pain in the ass but once again your comments only serve to strengthen my point: that the cost of physical media for high resolution digital audio is not "inconsequential" and therefore the cost of a high resolution digital download should therefore be somewhat lower than the cost of physical media since theoretically downloads should not that same cost associated with them.


Quote:

Quote:
Again my one word explanation of "GREED" appears to fit the bill.

With respect, you appear to be making a moral issue out of something that is more connected with a company's need to cover its costs, make a profit, and invest in new projects.

And again, I must point out that for a typical release, the physical cost of the medium is a small fraction of the cost a record company incurs per disc sold. Eliminating that cost will not by itself give rise to a big drop in price. So yes, while a major company that sells >200,000 copies of a title is making out like gangbusters, I don't see the proprietors of indie record companies flush in cash. It is possible that a download price of $20 is fair and, given the niche nature of the music, lowering the price will not result in a compensatory increase in sales numbers.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Okay I understand this however what I don't understand is why there is such a high premium on high resolution downloads versus CD resolution downloads. The way I understand it just about all new digital recordings and new digital to analog conversions of existing analog recordings are now done using 24 bit depth and either 96 kHZ or 192 kHz sampling rates so therefore the high resolution files are readily available. Sure a slight increase in price would be understandable to account for the large file size on the host site's server and the need to have multiple file types available but the existing 20% to 30% price gap is just not justified.

A perfect example of this kind of nonsense is the recent Beatles 24bit/44.1kHZ USB reissue - all the files exist with a much higher sampling rate but these true high resolution files were not used because Apple knows that these files can be made available in the future for yet another fleecing of the public. And you keep telling me that GREED has nothing to do with it. Hey do you want to buy a nice bridge? I'll even throw in the cars.

returnstackerror
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Re: SACD mistakes


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A 149 original DSD Jazz titles?

LINK

Break me a friggin' give!

And only 69 Blues Titles..... no wonder I get the Blues.

Buddha
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Re: SACD mistakes

If only the porn industry had somehow supported the SACD format.

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


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If only the porn industry had somehow supported the SACD format.

Unfortunately SACD is an audio format, however, the porn industry appears to fully supporting blu-ray, the high definition video format. Just a do a google search on "porn blu-ray" to see what I mean. At least we will have some nice eye candy available, but nice ear candy seems to be harder to come by.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes

But that is only worth while when you and your loved one make it a DIY project.
And, no, you do not need anything from Lowe's or Home Depot.

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


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But that is only worth while when you and your loved one make it a DIY project.
And, no, you do not need anything from Lowe's or Home Depot.

Correct nothing from Lowe's or Home Depot but perhaps something from this site:

Movie Props

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes

Jazzfan, I am afraid to look.

"Happy birthday, Mr. President...Happy birthday to you!"

High resolution...accept no substitutes!

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Re: SACD mistakes


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what I don't understand is why there is such a high premium on high resolution downloads versus CD resolution downloads.

Okay, what premium would you say is fair for a higher-quality of a recording that is already available as a CD?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Okay, what premium would you say is fair for a higher-quality of a recording that is already available as a CD?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

A fair pricing structure would be something along the lines of:

Lossy download (mp3, aac, etc.) regardless of bit rate: 50% the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD

Lossless download at 16bit/44.1kHz: 30% less than the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD (I would also include 16 bit/48kHz, 24bit/44.1khz and 24bit/48kHz in this category)

Lossless download at high resolution 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz: equal or less than the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD

Note: all downloads should include full artwork and recording information

If I'm being unreasonable, please let me know why.

bertdw
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Re: SACD mistakes

Shouldn't the pricing bear some relationship to the actual cost of producing and delivering the product? This is not a rhetorical question; I'm asking with an open mind here. Assuming the original has been recorded and mastered at high resolution (as it should have been), both the CD and mp3 versions require some additional cost (not including a physical copy), and should not necessarily cost less. Transcoding to CD or mp3 resolution takes minutes on a PC, so that shouldn't be a factor. Server space and internet bandwidth for a few gigabytes (versus a hundred megabytes for mp3) can't be more than a few pennies, can it? I don't see why a high resolution download should cost much more that a CD download, or why an mp3 download should cost much less.

Freako
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Re: SACD mistakes

Wise words indeed

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:

Quote:
Okay, what premium would you say is fair for a higher-quality of a recording that is already available as a CD?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

A fair pricing structure would be something along the lines of:

Lossy download (mp3, aac, etc.) regardless of bit rate: 50% the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD

Lossless download at 16bit/44.1kHz: 30% less than the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD (I would also include 16 bit/48kHz, 24bit/44.1khz and 24bit/48kHz in this category)

Lossless download at high resolution 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz: equal or less than the actual (as in what one would pay on Amazon.com) retail price of the physical CD

Note: all downloads should include full artwork and recording information

If I'm being unreasonable, please let me know why.

---------------
I fully agree.

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes

Here's an example of web site that gets downloading right on all fronts:

1) Quality recordings not available anywhere else

2) Choice of formats (mp3 or flac)

3) The ability to listen before you buy via streaming

4) The right price structure and great pricing when downloading the "Deal of the Day"

The Vault

Freako
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Re: SACD mistakes

Have you ever been unreasonable?

Drtrey3
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Re: SACD mistakes

"I don't see why a high resolution download should cost much more that a CD download, or why an mp3 download should cost much less."

Supply, meet Mr. Demand. 8)

Trey

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Have you ever been unreasonable?

Why does everybody think I am? Oh. maybe they are right? I'm not the one to ask.

My wife could fill you in.

Freako
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Re: SACD mistakes

I bet she could, but that's another story, right?

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes

Do you remember the scene in "On Golden Pond" where Norman (Henry Fonda) tries to nibble on Ethel's (Kathryn Hepburn) neck on the porch? If not you need to rent the movie, which is a great movie by the way.

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Shouldn't the pricing bear some relationship to the actual cost of producing and delivering the product? ... I don't see why a high resolution download should cost much more that a CD download, or why an mp3 download should cost much less.

Because no one would pay a premium for MP3 sound.

Freako
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Re: SACD mistakes

I saw it. A great movie. Getting older is not for sissies.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:

Quote:
Shouldn't the pricing bear some relationship to the actual cost of producing and delivering the product? ... I don't see why a high resolution download should cost much more that a CD download, or why an mp3 download should cost much less.

Because no one would pay a premium for MP3 sound.


---------------------------
I think 99 cents is outrageous for MP3 sound. A quarter sounds about right.

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Re: SACD mistakes

There is a DTS HD banner ad on Stereophile
They are emphasizing surround sound again
They have not learn anything from the SACD debacle
No one gives a shit about surround sound in audio
And if one still wants it he can have it with a processor
Again they are trying to get on board people that are not interested in audio, in jazz, in classical music, but people who watch mostly cheap surround sound blockbuster movies
Who is going to save them from themselves
-just like Stereophile, it seems to me??

Kal Rubinson
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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:
There is a DTS HD banner ad on Stereophile
They are emphasizing surround sound again
They have not learn anything from the SACD debacle
No one gives a shit about surround sound in audio
And if one still wants it he can have it with a processor
Again they are trying to get on board people that are not interested in audio, in jazz, in classical music, but people who watch mostly cheap surround sound blockbuster movies
Who is going to save them from themselves
-just like Stereophile, it seems to me??


Don't get out much, do you? DTS always emphasizes surround sound because that is their business and it is doing quite well these days. Is there any point to critiquing advertisements?

Kal

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Okay, what premium would you say is fair for a higher-quality of a recording that is already available as a CD?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

A few of us have responded to your request for an acceptable pricing structure for downloads of various quality. So what do you think, now that we have put a numerical value on the subject? Are we being fair or are we off base. And if we are off base, could you kindly please tell us why. Thanks in advance!

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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:

Quote:
Okay, what premium would you say is fair for a higher-quality of a recording that is already available as a CD?

A few of us have responded to your request for an acceptable pricing structure for downloads of various quality. So what do you think, now that we have put a numerical value on the subject? Are we being fair or are we off base. And if we are off base, could you kindly please tell us why. Thanks in advance!

My thanks to you and everyone else who commented. The feedback was both welcome and helpful. However, it still ignores the point I repeatedly made, which was that the selling price for an album, whether on a physical medium or as downloadable files, has to cover _all_ the costs associated with its production and provide a sufficient profit margin. That may or may not give a price for downloads that you would be prepared to pay. But if it doesn't, that doesn't mean the record company is greedy.

Also - and call me a shameless capitalist if you wish - but I believe that the high-resolution version of an album should command a significant premium price compared with the Red Book version. The customer is getting more quality, hence potential value.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


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My thanks to you and everyone else who commented. The feedback was both welcome and helpful. However, it still ignores the point I repeatedly made, which was that the selling price for an album, whether on a physical medium or as downloadable files, has to cover _all_ the costs associated with its production and provide a sufficient profit margin. That may or may not give a price for downloads that you would be prepared to pay. But if it doesn't, that doesn't mean the record company is greedy.

First of all, thanks for the quick response. Regarding the above statement, I agree in theory but I balk because, as I explained earlier, it appears that the record companies have been lying to the public for quite some time now. I'm afraid that the real reasons for pricing CDs/SACDs/downloads involves other factors besides production costs and profit margin. For example the recently re-re-re-re-re-reissued Beatles catalog. The production costs for those recordings were covered a very long time ago and it is basically supply and demand which account for the pricing.


Quote:
Also - and call me a shameless capitalist if you wish - but I believe that the high-resolution version of an album should command a significant premium price compared with the Red Book version. The customer is getting more quality, hence potential value.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Again I agree in theory and I even priced the hi-rez downloads slightly above the cost of standard resolution downloads. Once again there is a disconnect between what the consumer has been told, what the consumer knows to be true and the nonsense they are being fed. The cost of distributing music via download is no where near as expensive as the cost of distributing physical media. In addition the ability to make and distribute illegal AND perfect copies of digital music files, whether copies of a downloaded file or files ripped from a CD, most definitely clouds the waters. I completely understand that there has been a paradigm shift in the way the music business operates and that we are going through a period of adjustment within the industry as everyone learns what will work and not work within the new business model. However based on the way the music industry continues to cling to their old ways where both the public and the artists were often taken for a ride I don't see much hope for the industry's long term survival.

The basic issue comes down to this:

The pricing of physical media was always based on a combination of the relative value of the media, the music and the pricing of similar products. In other words, if the average CD was selling for $12 it would not be wise to price another CD at $20. However, now one needs to add in the fact that the product, i.e. the music, can be obtained at relatively little cost in a variety of ways: copying a friend's CD or via "illegal" downloading. Again I understand that these low cost methods of obtaining music may or may not be completely "legal" but nonetheless they exist and are widely used and to keep on ignoring them is just plain stupid. Not ignoring these low cost methods is particularly important when it comes to pricing downloads since there is not much, if any, difference between a legal, i.e. paid for, and "illegal", i.e. not paid for, download.

Freako
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Re: SACD mistakes

I have to agree with Jazzfan. Many of his statements are not to be ignored, especially the thing about the record companies' and their "greed". Like it or not, that is the case, even if they have to cover production costs, distribution etc.

An example:

SR1002 CD pressing $15
SR2002 CD-R $20
SR4002 24/96 (audio only) DVD-R2 $30
SR6002A 24/96 .aif files-on-disc DVD-R3 $35
SR6002W 24/96 .wav files-on-disc DVD-R3 $35
SR8002A 24/192 .aif files-on-disc DVD-R3 $45
SR8002W 24/192 .wav files-on-disc DVD-R3 $45

These are all downloadable files as far as I understand.

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:
I have to agree with Jazzfan. Many of his statements are not to be ignored, especially the thing about the record companies' and their "greed". Like it or not, that is the case, even if they have to cover production costs, distribution etc.

An example:

SR1002 CD pressing $15
SR2002 CD-R $20
SR4002 24/96 (audio only) DVD-R2 $30
SR6002A 24/96 .aif files-on-disc DVD-R3 $35
SR6002W 24/96 .wav files-on-disc DVD-R3 $35
SR8002A 24/192 .aif files-on-disc DVD-R3 $45
SR8002W 24/192 .wav files-on-disc DVD-R3 $45

These are all downloadable files as far as I understand.

Thanks, I try to be as eloquent as possible without starting a flame war

Question: what does the pricing schedule quote above refer to?

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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:
Question: what does the pricing schedule quote above refer to?

New Soundkeeper recording

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


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Quote:
Question: what does the pricing schedule quote above refer to?

New Soundkeeper recording

Thanks. I checked the link and what lovely pictures, truly they spared no expense when it came to taking pictures. I would expect the sound quality to be pretty good since it does appear that great care was taken in trying to obtain the best sound possible. Nonetheless it does not seem that the overall productions costs can not quite justify the higher than normal pricing (at least for the high resolution versions).

The cheapest hi-rez (24/96) is still double the price of the standard resolution CD and all this for a format that many people feel is overkill.

And what's up with idea that individually burned CD-Rs will sound better than a mass produced CD - unless the CD is defective and makes the CD player's error correction have to work overtime there is really no basis for this claim and the higher price. But then audiophiles will paid insane money for a power chord and other highly questionable "upgrades" so what's a few dollars more a CD-R but a relatively inexpensive "upgrade".

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Also - and call me a shameless capitalist if you wish - but I believe that the high-resolution version of an album should command a significant premium price compared with the Red Book version. The customer is getting more quality, hence potential value.

Hi-res is no different than any other format. It can be well done and sound good, giving value over 16/44; or it can be badly executed and be a rip off.

There is a prominent download site that has been upsampling 24/48 material and representing it as high res. Their sound engineer responsible for this and transferring SACD is now on record claiming that as many as 50% of all SACD they receive for transfer are nothing more than upsampled redbook!!!

Many audiophiles have dipped their toes in these waters and feel they have been burned. Many audiophiles do not feel they are receiving

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Many audiophiles have dipped their toes in these waters and feel they have been burned. Many audiophiles do not feel they are receiving
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Re: SACD mistakes

Don't remember, but luckily someone else remembered. I just popped the first bad example I could find.

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Hi-res is no different than any other format. It can be well done and sound good, giving value over 16/44; or it can be badly executed and be a rip off.

Of course. This has always been the case.


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There is a prominent download site that has been upsampling 24/48 material and representing it as high res. Their sound engineer responsible for this and transferring SACD is now on record claiming that as many as 50% of all SACD they receive for transfer are nothing more than upsampled redbook!!!

I assume you are referring to HDTracks and the BIS releases that turned out to have been mastered with Red Book resolution? I believe that HDTracks admitted their error. However, a good 24-bit recording, even at 44.1kHz, will still sound superior to the 16-bit version of that file. (If you have a digital processor that can resolve that extra resolution. That's why in my testing I explore the ultimate resolution of such products.) When I release Hyperion Knight's Rhapsody in Blue as a download, that will be a 24/44.1 file. Yes, it does sound better than the CD and I am thinking that the price should be the same as for the physical CD, for the reasoning already explained by Jazzfan.


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Many audiophiles have dipped their toes in these waters and feel they have been burned. Many audiophiles do not feel they are receiving "potential value" simply because someone is claiming the material is high resolution. As a matter of fact, many audiophiles feel the differences are very subtle and mostly attributable to mastering.

With all respect, your use of the phrase "many audiophiles" is projection, Yes, _some_ audiophiles have expressed those sentiments but that doesn't necessarily equate with "many." Where the recordings are of known provenance, such as my own, the difference between the Red Book version and the hi-rez version is audible in direct comparisons. The problem is not that hi-rez recordings are a rip-off per se but that with recordings of unknown provenance, the opportunity exists for scam artists to operate - at least until they are found out.


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Other than being a shameless capitalist, what is it that makes you feel otherwise? Or, why should we feel otherwise?

You should buy from trusted sources and trust your ears. And when Stereophile finds that a recording is fake hi-rez, we will publicize that fact, just as we did with the Norah Jones and DSotM SACDs.


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With no industry standards or watchdogs to instill public confidence, and the producers unwilling to divulge origin of material, why should we gamble on "potential"?

I am not sure why you say there are no industry standards. There are standard file formats for genuine hi-rez audio data - AIF, WAV, ALAC, FLAC, etc. There are four sample rates that genuinely offer greater data density than Red Book CD - 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, and 192kHz. Now you may feel that these choices equate with there not being a standard, but as far as the computer playback program and the DAC is concerned, it doesn't matter. _All_ combinations of these choices result in a linear PCM datastream presented to the DAC and analog audio that has the potential for greater resolution than Red Book CD, hence better sound quality. That record producers can reduce or even destroy that potential is unfortunate, but that has been a fact of life since the dawn of sound recording 130 years ago.

It is a legitimate complaint that there are too many choices, but that results from two historical divides:

First, Apple vs PC. This is unfortunate but whatever platform you use, there are utilities that easily convert between Mac-specific file formats (AIF, ALAC) and PC formats (WAV, FLAC etc.). I download many FLAC files, for instance, and convert them to ALAC with the free utility Max so I can play them them Pure Music and iTunes. No big deal as far as I am concerned. The only drawback concerning format choice is that WAV doesn't support metadata tags.

Second, the two families of sample rates - 48/96/192kHz and 44.1/88.2/176.4kHz - result from the divide between pure audio recordings (the latter) and those intended for video purposes (the former). Sound quality can be lost converting between the two families, which is why I record for CD release at 88.2kHz and above, and those recording for DVD release record at 96kHz and above. But again, it doesn't matter if a hi-rez file you download is 88.2 or 96kHz. Both have equal potential for sounding better than Red Book CD.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


Quote:

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Also - and call me a shameless capitalist if you wish - but I believe that the high-resolution version of an album should command a significant premium price compared with the Red Book version. The customer is getting more quality, hence potential value.

Hi-res is no different than any other format. It can be well done and sound good, giving value over 16/44; or it can be badly executed and be a rip off.

Which brings us back to my original point in the thread. SACD failed in large part due to its initial premium price for poor music ('poor' as in unknown artists and 3rd rate orchestras)...the industry figured, unwisely, that the magic of the new format would count more than the dross that was the music, so they charged too much assuming the consumers were idiots.

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Re: SACD mistakes

Mr Atkinson, might I ask a rookie question...you speak of converting data streams between file types (WAV, FLAC, etc) and data sampling/word sizes...

My question...why do these tinkerings with the original signal not result in digital errors, dropped or added 1's or 0's..

When I convert a WMV video file to MOV I get a significantly different quality end result. Why is audio different or do I misunderstand your argument?

jazzfan
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Re: SACD mistakes


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It is a legitimate complaint that there are too many choices, but that results from two historical divides:

First, Apple vs PC. This is unfortunate but whatever platform you use, there are utilities that easily convert between Mac-specific file formats (AIF, ALAC) and PC formats (WAV, FLAC etc.). I download many FLAC files, for instance, and convert them to ALAC with the free utility Max so I can play them them Pure Music and iTunes. No big deal as far as I am concerned. The only drawback concerning format choice is that WAV doesn't support metadata tags.

Second, the two families of sample rates - 48/96/192kHz and 44.1/88.2/176.4kHz - result from the divide between pure audio recordings (the latter) and those intended for video purposes (the former). Sound quality can be lost converting between the two families, which is why I record for CD release at 88.2kHz and above, and those recording for DVD release record at 96kHz and above. But again, it doesn't matter if a hi-rez file you download is 88.2 or 96kHz. Both have equal potential for sounding better than Red Book CD.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Thanks JA - I had been patiently waiting for you to chime in and help me out with some support and a better explanation than I could provide. After reading this last post I now can see that you and I are not too far apart in your thinking about hi-rez digital music (we only seem to disagree on the pricing ).

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Re: SACD mistakes


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Mr Atkinson, might I ask a rookie question...you speak of converting data streams between file types (WAV, FLAC, etc)...

My question...why do these tinkerings with the original signal not result in digital errors, dropped or added 1's or 0's...

Because you are merely applying mathematical operations that are known to be error-free. That's why when you download a lossless-compressed computer program, it runs fine when you uncompress the file.


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and data sampling/word sizes...

I separated this part of your question because yes, when you apply these sorts of operations, you do both change and potentially degrade the data. The 96kHz-to-88.2kHz operation, for example, is computationally complex and if shortcuts are taken to allow the change to be performed in real-time, like when you playback a 96kHz file in iTunes when the latter is set to operate at 88.2kHz, the sound is made significantly worse. That's the beauty of front-end programs like Amarra and Pure Music: they eliminate the possibility of iTunes invoking its poor real-time sample-rate converter.


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When I convert a WMV video file to MOV I get a significantly different quality end result. Why is audio different or do I misunderstand your argument?

These video conversions involves converting one quality-compromised lossy format to another whereas the audio conversions I was taking about involve uncompressed data or lossless-compressed data. Each lossy video format involves a different set of compromises, so they may well look different. If you want to preserve video quality, you should create all your masters as AVI files, but there is then a huge cost in data-storage demands. (IIRC, an AVI file takes up around 7-10x the space as a lossy-compressed MPEG file.)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: SACD mistakes


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After reading this last post I now can see that you and I are not too far apart in your thinking about hi-rez digital music (we only seem to disagree on the pricing ).

Indeed. And I think the disagreement stems from the fact that you are looking at the issue from the point of view of the consumer and I can't help but look at it from the point of view of a producer of recordings.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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