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CE Week Panel Offers High-Res Audio Evangelists’ Views

June 25, 2014 By Nancy Klosek
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Imperatives needed to get top-drawer “better-than-CD-quality” audio in front of consumers beyond the audiophile fringe were the main topics of discussion among a mixed group of hardware, content and engineering experts, at Wednesday’s CE Week panel entitled, “Making High-Resolution Audio Accessible.”

Moderated by Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) senior director Marc Finer, the panel included: John Jackson, VP, A&R and content development at Sony Music Legacy Recording; Jim Belcher, VP, technology & production, Universal Music Group; Howie Singer, chief strategic technologist, Warner Music Group; Maureen Droney, senior executive director, P&E Wing, The Recording Academy; Paul Wasek, national marketing & product planning manager, Onkyo USA; and Aaron Levine, senior product marketing manager, home audio, Sony Electronics.

Opinion differed little among participants about the need for an effort among all factions in concert – including retailers – to experientially drive the point home that there is better sound to be heard, to Millennials and other demographics who have grown used to accepting compressed source material as the norm.

Wasek pointed to a challenge at the store level – namely, that oftentimes, products such as receivers are not “live” in many retail outlets. “Not too many customers will take your word for it that ‘this sounds better.’ They have to hear it.”

Finer indicated that there is an effort afoot by the CEA’s Audio Division Board to “try to align messaging and descriptions for retail presentation.”

Also key is getting artists’ testimonials, said Singer. “We need artists to speak to their fans.”

Belcher praised Apple’s Mastered for iTunes, which is that company’s initiative for encouraging the recording of high-resolution files. “It has set best practices and incentivized people,” agreed Droney.

Finer asked panel members if they would name a key critical factor in getting the message across to consumers.

Belcher cited the elevation of the headphone as a listening instrument, along with the growth of addition of high-resolution chipsets in smartphones – such as currently exists in a handful of smartphone models – that will facilitate experimentation with high-res sound.

Singer said consumers want convenience; “that’s what high resolution needs to be.”

“By experiencing it,” said Droney stated, citing CEA research that shows consumers want better audio but don’t know what to ask for.

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