Schuyler QuackenbushKicking off the 131st AES Convention with a slightly provocative twist, two Thursday tutorial topics effectively stirred emotions amongst early attendees. Michael D. Griffin of Essential Sound Products (ESP) presented “After-Market Power Cords: ‘Snake Oil’ or Legitimate Audio Accessory?” followed by Schuyler Quackenbush of Audio Research Labs and Thomas Sporer of Fraunhofer with “MP3 Can Sound Good.”
Griffin began his tutorial by stating after-market IEC cables do comprise a category of “controversial products” in the audio industry, but went on to present audio examples to support the use of his own ESP Music Cord in audio production environments. Two versions of the same stereo mix—via an Allen & Heath MixWizard with and without an ESP IEC cord—prompted some attendees to acknowledge that an audio improvement was apparent in the ESPassisted mix. Next, Griffin offered Samplitude Pro X spectrograms of material recorded with and without an ESP IEC. Though slight, there were obvious visual differences between the two spectrograms.
In “MP3 Can Sound Good,” Quackenbush explained how the limited memory of the very first MP3 players encouraged consumers to encode MP3s at horribly compressed rates. Today, it’s a different ballgame, offered Quackenbush, who suggests we simply avoid all bit rates below 256 kb/s: “Bits are cheap. Let’s use them!” He also touted a German magazine article in which even “golden- eared” listeners cannot tell the difference between a 256 kb/s bit rate and 16-bit/44.1 kHz CD-based audio, as such higher-resolution MP3s are “perceptually transparent.”