AIX Records 3D Music Album Demo & Audio Calibration Disc 3D

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AIX Records
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Not Rated
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Single Side, Single Layer (BD-25)
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A, B & C
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Mark Waldrep
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Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM 24/96 2.0
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AIX Records 3D Music Album™ Demo & Audio Calibration Disc is the third Blu-ray 3-D Disc using the Dolby® TrueHD lossless codec, and it consists of a variety of musical genres. The performances were recorded in June of 2010 at the Colburn School for Performing Arts in Zipper Auditorium and are not live concert videos, as there was no audience present during the recording sessions. AIX Records produces albums by recording all of the participants in real time without overdubs or digital processing of any kind. Two other AIX 3D Music Albums are reviewed in Issue 157, with three more to follow. The production features eight performances: "The White Horse Trail," performed by Laurence Juber on acoustic guitar; "Play Something Sweet" ("Brickyard Blues"), performed by Rita Coolidge singing with an 11-piece backup band; "A Little Too Late," performed by Mark Chesnutt singing and acoustic guitar and backup band; "Bach's Goldberg Variations Acoustica," performed by the AIX All-Star Band; "Skeeball," performed by flutist James Walker and Free Flight; "Into The Third Dimension," performed by Laurence Juber on acoustic guitar, Kevin Axt, on electric bass and MB Gordy on drums; "Mozart's String Quartet K 269 Movement I Allegro"; and "Bereuse," performed by Bryan Pezzone playing a Model D Steinway 9-foot concert grand piano. "Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5," with Cristian Mandeal conducting the Georges Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, is listed in the booklet and supports a 17-minute 3-D survey of various locations in Southern California. Mark Waldrep, PhD, the founder, president and chief engineer at AIX Records presents an Introduction to the 3D Music Album concept. The Blu-ray is fully compatible with standard 2-D Blu-ray Disc™ players and displays, so one can enjoy the disc even on a non-3DHD display. The disc also contains a complete set of audio calibration instructions and tones and is recommended as a reference to the exceptional audiophile quality that the company has built its reputation on. The disc features reference-quality Dolby TrueHD music tracks, and home theatre setup tests, such as the "Subwoofer Crossover Test" and "System Setup Tutorial," to help optimize the performance of a sound system. (Gary Reber)

Special features include a booklet about the project, with appropriate musician and production credits and an AIX Records catalog listing. Both 2-D and 3-D versions are contained on the Blu-ray Disc. Also included is the featurette Southern California In 3D accompanied by Johann Sebastian Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5," (HD 10:04) and an Introduction segment.

This is AIX Records' first 3-D Music Album sampler Blu-ray Disc release. With these releases, AIX has ventured in producing original 3DHD video programming of the highest technical quality. This 1.78:1 720p MVC 3-D Music Album Blu-ray release was shot with four Panasonic AG-3DA1 cameras, and the picture exhibits beautiful natural depth. But unlike the first 3-D Music Album production of "Goldberg Variations Acoustica," there is visual crosstalk or ghosting throughout on the re-released version supplied, which AIX promises will be minimized when the final replicated discs are made available. Interestingly, during the selections "Bach's Goldberg Variations Acoustica," "Into The Third Dimension," and "Bereuse," ghosting is far less apparent and distracting. The special feature Southern California In 3D exhibits serious distracting double image crosstalk artifacts. The otherwise-impressive imagery is produced in the 1280 x 720 HD resolution format, not 1080p, which would further enhance resolution. Perhaps this is a problem with the multi-camera registrations or with the master because, with few exceptions of other studio 3-D movie releases, ghosting has not been detected, or if ghosting was present the outlines were so faint as to be virtually non-existent. Still, while not as sharp as possible, the imagery is totally satisfying in detail, particularly in the instruments and supporting electronics. Instrumental textures are revealed in degrees of "reflective shininess" of glossy smooth finishes on instruments, and the "roughness" exhibited on drum heads and scuffs on wood acoustic bass and string instruments. Similarly, fine detail is revealed in facial features and clothing, as well as the staging textures. The color spectrum is absolutely realistic and natural, with no exaggeration. Hues are rich and warm, with natural densities. Fleshtones are accurate throughout. The visuals are simplistic, as the program segments are an assemblage of images showing relatively static musicians expressively singing and playing their instruments from various angles and distances. Contrast is excellent with deep, solid black backgrounds and revealing shadow delineation. This contributes to the impressive sense of depth and the ability to judge spatial distances between the musicians and their instruments. There is no real complexity to the imagery, just a straight-ahead documentation of the performance staging shown from various angles. While foremost a documentation of musical events, unfortunately, the 3-D technical artifacts downgrade the presentation in terms of visual quality, which otherwise would have attained near-reference 3-D Blu-ray status, with stunning and absorbing natural imagery. (Gary Reber)

The album is recorded in high-definition 96 kHz/24-bit LPCM, with no dynamic range compression, equalization, or other signal processing to compromise fidelity. The recorded 5.1 surround mixes are encoded using Dolby TrueHD and the legacy Dolby Digital format, and allow the listener to choose the perspective from the "stage" or from the "audience" point-of-view (POV). The "stage" perspective puts you on the stage, with the musicians distributed to the left and right, as well as in front of you, while the "audience" perspective delivers the sound as if you were in the best seat in the house, more distant and reverberant, with a frontal focus and ambient surround soundfield. An optional 2.0-channel 96 kHz/24-bit PCM mix is provided, which also sounds incredibly transparent. The reference-level output on this disc is significantly higher, perhaps 2 dB to 4 dB, which required reducing the volume. To assist in proper level setting AIX provides channel ID calibration tests in 7.1, 5.1, and 2.0 formats with optional LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio™ codec encoding. Also included are tests for loudspeaker balance, loudspeaker phase, subwoofer crossover, and full-frequency and subwoofer sweeps. There are channel ID tests for both the traditional ITU 5.1 surround setup and a 7.1 array of loudspeakers, with the left and right surrounds placed at 90 degrees and the left and right rear loudspeakers at 135 to 155 degrees. The channel loudspeaker diagram layout in the booklet shows the position of the added two channels in the 7.1-channel layout to the rear, rather than to the 90-degree side channels with the traditional (5.1) surrounds positioned from 120 to 135 degrees. This continues to be confusing for the end user, as there still is no agreement on a 7.1-channel location standard, with some 7.1 releases positioning the added two channels at 90 degrees relative to the prime listening "sweet spot" and others as additional rear channels nearer the existing 120- to 135-degree surround positions. Most 7.1 motion picture mixes place the added two channels at the 90-degree positions. The sound quality is audiophile grade throughout, with an impressive dynamic quality and natural three-dimensional holosonic® envelopment delivered by the surround mixes. The Steinway Model D concert grand piano sounds magnificent, if not the finest recording of the instrument ever. No matter what presentation is selected, there is no sacrifice in fidelity or transparency across the recording's wide dynamic range. Most impressive is the natural decay of transients amongst the varied instrumental sounds, which enhances the absolute visceral realism, for one of the finest recorded sonic experiences ever. AIX Records uses stereo pairs of microphones, world-class discrete preamplifiers, and digital-to-analog converters fed directly into a multitrack HD digital recorder. The resulting surround music presentation is delivered with the highest-quality technical standard, using state-of-the-art digital recording equipment, with the intent of elevating the standard of recording/mixing music, performed by real musicians, in real performance venues. As testament to the extraordinary musicianship, these rare performances are breathtaking! This is a marvelous musical achievement and presentation that will enthrall music lovers and audiophiles who have an appreciation for master musicianship and sound quality. (Gary Reber)