Electronics Association (CEA) and the Japan Audio Society (JAS) "announced a new
partnership to help promote and support the marketplace growth of
High-Resolution Audio (Hi-Res Audio or HRA) devices and content". The press
release, issued December 18th, focuses on expanding the use of the HRA logo,
which was originally developed by Sony and then granted to the JAS to
administer. The logo has been in use for over a year by Japanese companies but
this new collaboration will bring the logo to the United States and members of
the CEA. According to the press release, "CEA also has agreed to utilize and
promote the logo to its members and consumers".
Hardware and content companies will be able to
license the Hi-Res Logo for use with their products in packaging, advertising,
marketing, and merchandising if they "agree to follow the HRA product guidelines
and performance requirements, as specified by JAS". Those guidelines and
performance requirements were discussed in a previous post and are summarized in
the following figure:
The biggest thing to note is the move from 20 kHz
to 40 kHz in the microphones and transducers (headphones and speakers). The 96kHz/24-bit
PCM specification gets us all of the fidelity we want and really is the minimum
for real high-resolution recording and delivery. Sadly SACD and DSD 64 don't
qualify because of the frequency range limitation... DSD 64 gets very noisy
after about 23 kHz.
The press release continues with the usual statements about how thrilled the CEA is to work with the JAS to "help establish consistency and assist consumers in navigating this exciting, steadily emerging market."
That's the key term in the whole document...
consistency! Unfortunately, the CEA doesn't seem to fully understand the meaning
of consistency. As the document continues, they blow a huge hole in the whole
notion consistency. It's one thing to have common logo but quite another to have
it apply to two completely incompatible definitions of what high-resolution
audio actually is. Am I the only one that see the contradiction?
The JAS organization is collaborating with the
CEA to bring the logo and "the guidelines and performance requirements".
However, the CEA's definition of HRA doesn't meet them... by a long shot! The
press release continues with a reiteration of the "formal definition for HRA",
which was hammered out by The DEG, CEA, The Recording Academy in partnership
with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group.
Here's how that group defines high-resolution audio:
"The organizations and companies agreed to define
HRA as lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound
from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music
sources. Separate from this definition, the organizations also agreed to
designate four different Master Quality
Recording categories, each of which describes a recording that has
been made from the best quality music source currently available. All of these
recordings sound like the artists, producers and engineers originally intended."
This definition is not a set of guidelines. It
doesn't set standards for performance quality. It lacks any teeth and allows
virtually every recording ever produced to qualify as HRA. After all, what is
the "best quality music source currently available?" Really.
An Edison cylinder (an analog recording made at
the turn of the 20th century) of a wire recording made in the 30s would be
classed under the Master Quality – Analog (MQ-A) and if transferred to a
96kHz/24-bit PCM bit bucket would be considered High-Resolution Audio tracks.
But they obviously wouldn't qualify for the Hi-Res Logo, which demands the
microphones and the entire production path be capable of handling 40 kHz (we're
not going to argue whether you can hear it or not). How does the CEA square this
contradiction? How will the logo be distributed to companies whose products meet
the lesser of the two standards? Will a manufacturer of turntables be allowed to
license the JAS logo? How about a super resolution audio download site that
provides DSD files transferred from analog tapes?
All of this in the interest of "consistency" and to avoid confusion in the emerging high-resolution audio marketplace. We're not off to a very good start.