The Hi-Res Power Panel

While every panel at the Hi-Res Audio Workshop in the Venetian's Bellini Ballroom was a power panel of sorts, the "Hi-Res Power Panel" brought together three of the major driving forces behind the industry-wide drive to embrace high-resolution audio recording and playback.

Closing three days of presentations were Maureen Droney, Senior Executive Director of The Recording Academy's Producers and Engineers Wing and a recording engineer who has worked with Santana and John Hiatt; Marc Finer, whose Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) consults with Sony and other entities as he attempts to align messaging on the hi-res front; and Robert Heiblim, Vice Chair of the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) Audio Division. These folks know what they're talking about, and they also know what they don't know.

Last June, Finer reported, DEG arrived at a definition for high-resolution audio. "It's a miracle that we got the three major labels to agree to the definition, and to arrive at four descriptors of provenance," he told a pretty packed audience. That definition, which describes hi-res lossless audio as digital audio, better than CD quality, that presents music as the artist intended it be heard, communicates that hi-res provides a better listening experience than Red Book CD and lossy MP3.

While the term "Hi-Res Audio" is far from universally accepted—to whit the Chesky Brothers' HDTracks, Naxos ClassicsOnlineHD, Mark Waldrep's high-definition audio recordings, and Neil Young stretching the definition of hi-res to include some CDs—it is beginning to make its mark industry-wide. It just takes time to get people to speak a consistent language.

What is helping is an instantly identifiable, yellow and black logo. Developed jointly with the Japan Audio Society, the logo increasingly appears on devices that handle hi-res files.

Droney reported that some of the issues facing some of The Academy's 6500 members are older recording rigs and the lack of storage space. Another issue, which emerged in "The Retail Perspective" panel, included the challenge of demonstrating hi-res audio. Citing a joint event she had arranged with mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, Droney suggested that joint demos with artists are of major importance. Outreach to schools, studios, and festivals, complete with samples, are essential.