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Craig Anderton’s Open Channel: I’m Just Asking Questions…

No, this isn’t a thinly disguised attempt to ask leading questions and get away with it, like some people in the media do. These are questions for which I truly don’t know the answers.

Craig Anderton.
Craig Anderton.

No, this isn’t a thinly disguised attempt to ask leading questions and get away with it, like some people in the media do. These are questions for which I truly don’t know the answers. But hey, Mix readers are smart—so, I hope y’all have some answers and can clue me in.

Has there ever been a double-blind test that proved people can hear a difference between audio played back at 96 kHz or 48 kHz if the material was recorded at 96 kHz?

The reason I say “recorded at 96 kHz” is because I do know that almost all people can hear audible, obvious differences with some in-the-box audio sources recorded at 96 kHz, as opposed to being recorded at 44.1 or 48 kHz. The reason I know this is because I’ve run listening tests at several seminars where if foldover distortion is present at lower sample rates, people can hear the difference. Okay, so recording at 96 kHz can make a difference. But what about material recorded at 96 kHz and played back at 96 or 44.1/48 kHz? Despite communing extensively with Google, I have yet to find a definitive study that says the majority (or minority, for that matter) of people can or cannot tell the difference. Have we been told we need playback at high sample rates for decades without anyone actually knowing whether it makes an audible, reproducible difference?

Regarding software, which brings in more revenue for companies that offer both: subscriptions or perpetual licenses?

No software company will answer that question for me, but I’m curious. Some people hate subscriptions passionately, and won’t buy a program unless a perpetual license is available. Other buyers see subscriptions as a way to spread expenses over time. If they really like the program and a company offers both options, they can always buy the perpetual version later. So, how are consumers voting with their dollars when it comes to the subscription/perpetual license dilemma?

Does any organization do objective, scientifically based tests of audio gear?

I remember when Keyboard magazine paid big bucks to get an Audio Precision AP-1. How come we’re stuck with all those “influencers” on YouTube saying things like, “Yeah, the XYZ mic preamps are crap, but the UVW mic preamps are wonderful,” without anything to back it up? We have standards for measurements, but no standards on how to apply them.

Granted, there are quite a few measurement tools for computers that can tell you what’s happening within the computer, but hardware is a different story. Which audio interface preamps really are noisier? What we need is not a standard for the measurements themselves—we have those—but for the conditions under which measurements are taken. Was that mic preamp noise measurement done with the input shorted, or with a 150 ohm resistor to ground to represent the real world? No gain, or with gain? In most cases, I have no idea.

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Although an independent testing organization would be great, I doubt that will happen. The next best thing would be establishing uniform test conditions for hardware products. Then, when companies give their specs, they would have the bragging rights to say their specs conform to a uniform set of standards, so customers could make direct comparisons and draw valid conclusions. Ultimately, I think, that would be in everyone’s best interest.

Why don’t streaming services offer “value-add/optional-at-extra-cost” downloads?

Streaming services say they don’t make much money, and often lose money. The concept of paying to download songs disappeared along with the iPod, because people would rather stream for cheap, or free.

But what if downloads were available that included interviews, photos, concert posters, album art, artist comments, maybe even isolated tracks? One of the reasons people still buy Blu-Ray discs is the extras. Sure, I can stream Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny on Disney+, but the Blu-Ray lets me watch the movie with only the soundtrack and visuals, which is brilliant—it’s like a crash course in how to score a movie. So, I bought the Blu-Ray. How many Taylor Swift fans would pay $19.95 for a The Tortured Poets Department download with the kind of extras I’m talking about? Give the money to the artist, take a 20-percent commission, everyone makes money, fans are happy.

Why don’t streaming services sign bands?

This is related. Streaming services say that after paying the rights holders, there’s not much left for them or the artists. Okay, so why don’t streaming services sign bands and decide what’s a good figure for the rights they would pay themselves, as well as artist royalties and bucks to keep the business running? Seems to me that Apple would benefit the most from this because the bands they sign could do the music for their original movies and shows.

Look what happened to the Rembrandts when they did the theme song for Friends. Or, consider what Top Gun did for Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” or what The Breakfast Club did for Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” There are plenty more examples.

Hey, I’m just asking questions! There are probably simple answers to these that will make me look silly for even asking. But I really don’t know the answers—and it wouldn’t surprise me if others have asked themselves the same things.