Steve Rowe's Blog

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  • Blog Post: Is there really a benefit in lossless audio formats?

    Lossless codecs are all the rage amongst those who aspire to be audiophiles.  Whether it is ripping CDs in a format like FLAC or WMA Lossless or listening the TrueHD track on Bluray movies, there are those who swear by it.   Most audio formats like MP3, AAC, and WMA are lossy formats. ...
  • Blog Post: Metallica's Death Magnetic Poorly Mastered

    Metallica's new CD, Death Magnetic, is pretty good.  Certainly it is better than St. Anger although I suppose that's not setting the bar very high.  This CD is closer to And Justice For All than anything Metallica has done in the last decade.  Unfortunately, the CD is mastered very hot...
  • Blog Post: Are Audiophiles Going Extinct?

    This article says that they are. More importantly, it says that people do not care as much about their music or the quality of their music-listening experience as much as they once did. That's very interesting if true. I wonder if this is a permanent trend or if it is temporary. Beyond a certain point...
  • Blog Post: Audio Not Keeping Up With HD Video?

    Here is an interesting read about how the audio in HD TV is not keeping up with the video. People are buying 1080p TV sets. The networks are paying more attention to the quality of their video, but they are not yet doing much with the audio. Many movies recording in 5.1 are broadcast in 2 channels. ...
  • Blog Post: Vista Audio 1 Year Later - Interview with Cakewalk

    One of my readers tipped me off to an interesting interview with Noel Borthwick, CTO of Cakewalk. He talks about the improvements made in Vista for lower-latency audio via the WaveRT driver model it introduced. To date, support for this mode among non-motherboard-audio has been slow to develop. Most...
  • Blog Post: Project BBQ Reports Are Released

    Project BBQ is the premier interactive music industry think tank. Everything from PC-audio to game audio to audio creation is covered. I attended this past October and the final reports are finally released. This year's subjects included suggestions for improving the base level of PC audio, audio metadata...
  • Blog Post: Analog to Digital Conversion

    If you want digital audio in a computer, you have to get it from somewhere. Usually that means taking analog sound out of the air and turning it into the bits that a computer can understand. Ars Technica gives us another installment of the AudioFile. This one covers the subject of Analog to Digital Conversion...
  • Blog Post: Vinyl Better Than CD?

    An amazingly lucid discussion of the benefits of Vinyl over CD (or lack thereof) is going on over at Slashdot right now. So far the trolls are straying away. If you want some understanding of dynamic range compression, sampling, etc. Check it out. For the record, I'm in the CD is better camp. It handles...
  • Blog Post: Another Project BBQ is in the can

    It's October and that means it is once again time for Project Bar-B-Q . This is the premiere computer music/audio think tank event. It's a gathering of 50 people from all across the spectrum. There are those who make audio hardware, operating systems, audio for games, midi controllers, etc. Again this...
  • Blog Post: Understanding MP3 Compression

    Another great article from Ars Technica. This time about MP3 compression. If you'e ever wondered how MP3 works, this is a great article to start with. No math is necessary.
  • Blog Post: Digital Audio Primer

    Ars Technica has a new primer up describing digital audio. A good read if you want to introduce yourself to the concepts.
  • Blog Post: What Is A Microphone Array?

    One of our program managers, Richard Fricks, just had a piece posted on the Windows Vista blog talking about microphone arrays . He describes what microphone arrays are, what they are good for, and how Windows Vista enables support for them. If you use the built-in microphone, you should understand this...
  • Blog Post: An Explanation for the "Music Slows Down Networking" Issue

    Last week there was a small storm on the internet when it was discovered that playing music on Windows Vista caused networking to slow down. Mind you, the slowdown had little practical effect for most users. It was most pronounced on gigabit ethernet connections under load. Still, it was definitely and...
  • Blog Post: Another DRM Domino Falls

    First it was EMI announcing that they would sell non-DRM'd music on iTunes. Later they announced they would sell through Amazon as well. Now the next RIAA member appears to be taking the plunge. Universal is going to be selling most of their catalog in a clear format through outlets like Amazon and WalMart...
  • Blog Post: The AMP Summit

    Today I attended the Alliance Music Partnership's AMP Summit. This was the 2nd annual gathering of audio people from Microsoft and the PC industry. We met at the Experience Music Project (EMP) here in Seattle. There were people from all parts of the industry in attendance. There were those who make audio...
  • Blog Post: DRM's Days Are Numbered

    Many people have hoped for the end of DRM'd music ever since the first download services. When EMI announced that they going to sell unencrypted AAC files via Apple's iTunes Music Store, the first crack appeared in the dike. Today Amazon is announcing a similar effort. This time, however, the files are...
  • Blog Post: Do You Have Golden Ears?

    Here is an interesting demo I heard about on This Week in Media. It contains 2 audio clips in both 128 kbps and 256kbps mp3. One clip is Mozart and the other from R.E.M. The Mozart clip has a lot of strings in it. The R.E.M. clip has background vocals. Both are where you might find the differences represented...
  • Blog Post: A Crack In the DRM Wall?

    ...More like a gaping hole. To date there has been a unified face put on major digital media assets. Whether TV, Movies, or Music, Hollywood et al have not released them without DRM. Sure, there have been some independent labels and even artists who sold their music without DRM, but none of the big...
  • Blog Post: Selling Discrete Audio Cards Isn't Easy

    EliteBastards has an interesting article speculating about the future of Creative Labs. Creative was one of the first PC sound add-in boards ( AdLib was the first that I recall). They are certainly the most successful of the PC audio card manufacturers. The author talks about the threats to Creative...
  • Blog Post: Soundscapes 101

    Back in May of 2006 I was invited to a recording session at Microsoft Studios (yes, we have out own studios--very cool place) with Robert Fripp . He's the artist brought in to help develop the Windows sound for Vista. This was the 2nd of two sessions I'm aware he had here at Microsoft. Robert Scoble...
  • Blog Post: The Fat Man Speaks

    George Sanger, aka "The Fat Man," is interviewed by The Escapist . George is the founder of Project BBQ which I mentioned a few weeks back. He's also a well-known game music designer whose credits include Wing Commander, Loom, and Master of Orion. In this interview he comments on the current state of...
  • Blog Post: Project BBQ Reports Are Available

    In October of last year I flew to Texas to attend what is called Project Bar-B-Q. It is promoted as "The premier interactive music think tank" and that pretty much sums it up. It is a gathering of 50 people from the computer audio and music industries to talk about the future of computer-oriented audio...
  • Blog Post: The State of PC Audio

    One of the things I own at Microsoft is test development for audio in Windows. For Vista we did a lot of work to rewrite the audio system and make it more stable and enable more features. Just recently ExtremeTech published an article on the State of PC Audio. It talks about the various options for audio...
  • Blog Post: New Vista Sound

    This is a bit dated but it's worth mentioning anyway now that Vista is officially launched for businesses. Each major release of Windows comes with a startup sound. Vista is no different. It has a sound created by Robert Fripp. I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of the recording sessions for...
  • Blog Post: Welcome the Audio Fool

    I'd like to welcome a member of my team to the world of blogging. His blog is called The Audio Fool . He works on measuring the fidelity of audio devices for Windows. If you have interest in audio and want to learn about it from a technical standpoint, I suggest you add his blog to your rss reader. I...
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