The Making of a High-Resolution Advocate
Where to start? I know there are some readers of StereoNET that already know who I am but chances are even those of you who have read some of my articles don't know much about me, or how I got so involved in the emerging area of high-resolution audio (or HD-Audio as I have called it for over a decade). So we'll start my series of posts on this site with a short bio and backgrounder.
I'm a member of the boomer generation and will turn 61 on the anniversary of J.S. Bach's birthday later this month. I was thrilled to learn that I shared a birthday with my favorite composer…although a couple of hundred years apart. I grew up in the state of Michigan in an affluent suburb of Detroit called Bloomfield Hills.
My father was a professional pilot for General Motors. But his hobbies were amateur radio and Hi-Fi audio. He built his much of his own equipment from scratch. I remember watching him mount tube sockets in the carefully nibbled holes in raw aluminum boxes as he constructed a power amplifier. He introduced me to electronics in theory and practice…I spent many happy hours dissecting old radios and assembling new audio components. I built my own stereo system when I was just 13 years old.
The Beatles hit U.S. airwaves fifty years ago and just like so many other impressionable young people around the globe, my life changed in an instant. I learned how to play the guitar, joined a band (appropriately named The Paupers) and played music through my teens. I actually built my first electric guitar AND amplifier.
During my three years of high school, I was more of a math/science student. I had ambitions to be an architect and upon graduation, I went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan (about 50 miles from my home). I was bored. School was no real challenge and so I made my way to the Ann Arbor Folklore Center and started learning to play finger style acoustic guitar. I purchase a 1971 Martin D-18 guitar and spent countless hours practicing. I still play it regularly.
Personal family circumstances forced a dramatic change of plans in 1973 after my first two years of college. My best friend and I decided to seek fame and fortune in Los Angeles. He wanted to race Formula 1 racecars and I was going to be a rock star. Doesn't everyone 20 years old have the simliar dreams?
The rock star thing didn't really work out. All it took was seeing one studio session by the amazing guitarist Larry Carlton and I knew that I would never be able to play like that. But I did find the whole recording studio environment fascinating. That was something that I could see myself doing. So I enrolled in a program that taught audio engineering. I was hooked.
I was also making my way back into the university but this time as a music student. I spent a year at the local community college and then headed to California State University, Northridge. This is one of the best music schools in the country. I graduated with Gordon Goodwin of the Phat Band and Grant Geissman the guitarist that played the famous Chuck Mangione "Feel's Alright" solo. I was a product of the composition department and specialized in electronic music. I got to spend a lot of time recording on reel-to-reel tape, editing with a razor blade and mixing small 4-track projects.
In my final year at CSUN, I took an audio engineering class with Dale Manquen. He was the designer of the 3M 56 2" 16-track machine, the first multichannel analog tape deck with all of the electronics tucked beneath the transport. Near the end of the class, he posted a job for a second engineer at a local studio on the chalkboard. I knew that was my going to be my job and launching point for a career in audio. It was.
So without being too long winded, I learned from a couple of masters while I was at Moma Jo's studio. I continued going to school and ultimately went to Cal Arts and UCLA for graduate degrees in music composition. My dissertation was the first electronic composition ever written at UCLA. It was binaural and I used my Nagra IV-S and a Neumann KU-81 "Fritz" to capture a lot of nature sounds.
I worked doing live sound for the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984, was a boom operator on some films and commercials for a couple of years for the late "Father Time", Mike Denecke, the inventor of the time code slate.
I toured with the electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick, one of my teachers at Cal Arts, to several International Electronic Music festivals. It was Mort that suggested I learn computer science…so I went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in CS. Lots of university time in my past.
I finally settled down and built my own studio around the Sonic Solution CD Pre-Mastering system in 1989. I spent 13 years mastering records and expanding my company, the Pacific Coast Sound Works, from a one-man garage operation into a company that occupied 7000 square feet in West Hollywood and employed almost 50 people. We were the first to produce and release a DVD-Video disc, the first to produce a DVD-Audio disc and the first enhanced CD for Disney Records.
With the arrival of the DVD-Audio format in 2000, I knew that someone had to make new high-resolution recordings. Recasting catalog albums into 5.1 surround products wasn't going to push the fidelity envelope as impressive as Queen's "Night at the Opera" or the Doors' "LA Woman" are. So I pulled out my wallet and started AIX Records. We've recorded and released almost 100 albums using 96 kHz/24-bit PCM audio, multiple mixing perspectives and complete video of the sessions.
The reaction of the audiophile community to our releases was nothing short of amazing. The press also praised our unique approach. In 2007, I launched the world's first high-resolution digital music download site…iTrax.com (taken from a trademark that I did back in the enhanced CD days. We did the "Stripped" project of the Rolling Stones for Virgin Records).
That brings me to the present. I have been the head of the audio engineering area at CSU Dominguez Hills for over 20 years and run a three room studio on the west side of Los Angeles.
I'm very pleased to be writing for stereo.net.au and posting a daily blog at RealHD-Audio.com. My book on the production of high-end audio is due to be completed this summer. So life is busy. This Sunday, I'll be competing in my 5th LA Marathon. Wish me luck.
About the Author
Mark Waldrep, Ph.D. is a StereoNET Technical Contributor. Mark has over 40 years experience as a recording and mastering engineer, is the founder and director of AIX Media Group, AIX Records and iTrax.com (the first high-resolution audio download site launched in 2007). Waldrep also holds multiple advanced degrees in music, art and computer science.
Contact via email [email protected]
Posted in: Industry
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