I know what you are thinking. Hey I thought Bob wrote a performance audio blog. Well, I do. Hang in there a sec while I use a brilliant analogy. I have long known the difference between Harleys and Vespas and just for the record I ride Harley Davidson 2007 FLHT standard. I also know the difference between HD performance audio and audio designed by an AV company.
Sorry folks, they are not the same. They are not even close. HD performance audio is a field unto itself born of years of scientific study, real life trial and error year after year, show after show, city after city, and artist after artist. Real HD performance audio is not something you just throw together. It is a system that takes many aspects of the application into consideration. Real HD designers will look at acoustics, direct energy, indirect energy and imaging, just as a start. There are a lot of companies that seem to think of audio as just a necessary part of a video system. Wow, what has happened to us as an industry?
First, what the heck is HD audio? Well it is a phase linear transparent audio system with superior clarity that does not color what comes out of it. Yes, it is as different from AV audio as a 4K projector is from an old 4:3 format projector. Yes, just like HD video it becomes immediately apparent and can be measured in many different ways. For the definitive article on HD audio I will refer you to John Meyer’s interview in Pro Sound.
AV companies for the most part are pretty good at what they do. There is nothing wrong with flat panel control systems. However, if there isn’t someone on the staff of an AV company who has ever been on tour, worked in real theater, or ever designed a performance audio system for the road, never -- and I mean never -- have them design your HD performance audio system. AV companies tend to be more V than A. I can only think of a handful of companies that even keep a real performance audio guy on staff anymore, let alone someone versed in linear performance systems. They are out there, but they are very few and far between. Most of these AV companies simply don’t know what they don’t know.
So, is it that we don’t care anymore? Are we a society of “I-podders” who think that an MP3 actually sounds good? Is a bit rate of 256 all we know? Are we that “dumbed down” that all we need is something flashy in front of us to keep us happy? I guess in this day and age that is a distinct possibility. But, I think there are people out there who do not want to settle for anything less than excellence in sound reinforcement. I could be wrong and I have been known to be (just ask the wife) but, I am hoping not. I think your audience still cares about dynamic range, IM distortion, linear phase, ear fatigue, bad imaging, and of course, going home with a headache, etc. They may not know the names of these anomalies, but they can hear it. They certainly know when their ears have been assaulted by a system that is way out of its league. I think we need to get back to having a distinction between high end quality HD performance audio and well, those systems that are not. A performance audio “renaissance” if you will. So, if you are looking for a Harley you won’t find it at a Vespa dealer. Do your homework. Call the HD audio professionals first. Yes, they are out there. Yeah Harleys are more expensive but, they’re long distance road machines and serve a completely different purpose than a Vespa.