Music Producers Eye Consulting Role For CE Audio Products

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Los Angeles – The hi-fi industry needs some help in the compressed-music era, and a group of legendary Grammy-winning music producers wants to lend a hand.

The group, called the Music Engineering and Technology Alliance (META), plans to consult with manufacturers of consumer and pro audio equipment and audio codec developers, such as Microsoft, to help them develop products and technologies that deliver the state-of-the-art in high-resolution two-channel and multichannel music, said producer Ed Cherney, one of the group’s seven founders.

The group will also help educate young music engineers, music makers, music lovers and CE salespeople who grew up on a diet of MP3 music about the benefits of high-resolution audio, he said.

The group’s founders “are in studios making music using the latest and greatest codecs and high-resolution tools, and then we hear it via MP3,” he explained. The group’s goal, he continued, is to ensure that consumers “hear music the way it’s coming out of the studio.”

Besides Cherney, META’s founders include Phil Ramone, Elliot Scheiner, Frank Filipetti, Al Schmitt, George Massenburg, Chuch Ainlay and META’s president Rory Kaplan. Cherney has produced such musicians as Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones.

“We want to support high-resolution audio,” Cherney said. “People, especially young people, haven’t had the opportunity to experience what full-range high-resolution audio is all about.”

The founders “lived through the golden age of audio,” but “concern for quality and resolution is not going on right now.”

The iPod and MP3 phenomenon “is one of the great things to happen to music,” he said. “It’s a quick and easy way to expose people to any type of music.” But, he noted, “there are still other great ways to enjoy music.”

Co-founder Massenburg, who is also META’s chief technical officer standards committee chairman, noted that the music industry “is lacking an objective resource to review technology from a professional user perspective.” Co-founder Filipetti added, “The highest quality audio to have ever been produced for mass consumption is currently available to all lovers of music, and yet most channels of current delivery fall well short of what’s possible. We intend to change that. We are trying to bring back to listeners the unbridled passion that comes from listening to a beautifully recorded work played back on a high-quality sound system.”

META’s Data: To assist CE suppliers and technology companies in delivering the best possible sound quality, the group will develop “standardized processes to evaluate compressed and uncompressed technologies” and help coach companies in making improvements, Cherney said. META, however, doesn’t plan to certify audio equipment or technologies in the way that THX certifies home theater audio equipment, he said.

The group said it will also facilitate R&D, standardization and cross-platform interoperability.

The group has met with Microsoft, which “is really open” to the initiative, Cherney said. Microsoft already offers a multichannel high-resolution codec that sounds “pretty darn good,” but improvements are possible, particularly in making it easier for professionals to use, he said.

As for CE suppliers, META is “interested in partnering with manufacturers who are putting out good machines and helping them promote the stuff,” Cherney said. “Not a lot” of CE suppliers, however, “are coming out with great new high-definition audio products. They’ve been low-key. We hope to educate people for them” to encourage manufacturers to produce more hi-fi equipment, he continued.

One way to do that is to promote high-resolution audio to consumers via the press and road shows at retail stores and colleges, he said. The group also intends to appear at retail stores to train salespeople.

Just as important, the group wants to stage half-day educational seminars nationwide at music engineering schools at such institutions as Berkeley and USC. Eventually, seminars at high schools will be on the agenda, he said.

META officers include acting CEO Bill Neighbors, the former DTS COO.

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