Adventures in the Present and Future

It takes people of vision to advance sound quality in an error—thank you, Mr. Freud, I mean era—when record companies often seem set on anything but advancing the quality of music and musical reproduction. Hence, for his panel "Adventures in Digital Formats, Upsampling & Dithering," John Atkinson and RMAF's Kurt Bauer assembled an extraordinary panel.

First, there was John himself, examining the history of digital reproduction. As he explained in the panel handout, John's life "has been marked by the tug between science and music." Trained in violin, he assembled his first audio system in 1969. (Whether he inhaled it is not mentioned in the handout). Though he received a BSc in physics and chemistry, and a post-grad degree in the teaching of science, he abandoned a career in scientific investigation and research to become a bass guitarist in a rock'n'roll band. When life on the road got real tough, he applied for a job as editorial assistant at Hi-Fi News & Record Review in the UK. Six years later, he became its editor-in-chief. Happily, four years later, in 1986, he crossed the great divide to become editor of Stereophile.

Next came recording engineer Keith O. Johnson, whose over 100 releases in classical and jazz include two Grammy winners and seven nominated for Best Engineered Classical Recording. Keith co-founded Gauss, Microsonics, and Reference Recordings, and holds any number of patents. He just received a Silver Medal from the Audio Engineering Society at the 125th AES convention in San Francisco, California "for outstanding contributions sustained over 40 years, to the advancement of audio quality of recordings through innovation in the areas of analog and digital recording technology, transducers and music recording techniques."

J. Gordon Rankin founded Wavelength Audio in 1981. He also worked in the computer industry for awhile until his Cardinal 300B SET amplifier got reviewed in 1994. His current focus is designing USB DACs, SET amplifiers, and, for fun, tube-based guitar and bass amplifiers.

Walt Stinson is President of ListenUp, a Denver retailer specializing in the design, sales, installation, and service of audio, video and control systems. Walt started out as a recording engineer, and ha produced hundreds of recordings and radio broadcasts over 40 years in the industry. He's the co-founder and past president of PARA, an industry trade association that is a division of CEA. As such, he was in a perfect position to discuss industry trends and their impact on consumers (that's us).

Andy McHarg joined dCS as a software engineer in 1993. Most of the fabled dCS gear that you read about has his name on the design team. Now Director of Development at dCS, his focus is on signal processing. Andy is the man behind the Scarlatti and Paganini Puccini, and the co-inventor of the Scarlatti Upsampler and Puccini U-Clock. You might say that he knows a few things.

Graemme Browne, chief engineer/editor at Vancouver-based Zen Mastering, worked on Ray Kimber's IsoMike project, Chick Corea's Grammy-winning Rendezvous in New York SACD. He consults with EMM Labs, and is on the development team for the Pyramix DSD audio workstation. Graemme spoke with understated authority about both the current state of commercial recording, and high-resolution formats of the present and future.

Don't you wish you could have been there? Hopefully, one of the folks who was videoing the entire panel will make a DVD available through one channel or another.