Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: murphy, texas
Re: Expect Two Winners in the HD Disc Format War
I think a very important item is being missed in this discussion.
Forget all of the arguments about which format is better, which format will win, and/or which one (or both) you should or should not buy.
The real issue here is how many formats will you have to contend with in your home theater/audio system, if you want the best of all audio and video formats.
And if you can answer that question, how exactly can you deal with integrating these multiple sources into your present system? The missing item in this discussion is the fact that the HDMI interface is the only non-proprietary way to carry uncompressed multichannel digital audio to your receiver or preamp/processor(without trans-coding).
I have a Marantz 8001 receiver. I love it. But it only has two DVI inputs, so it need to be upgraded.
Before I started to look for a new receiver or preamp/processor, I asked myself "how many formats do I need to contend with?". Since no one knows at this point who will win high def disc the war, I assumed that both formats will survive. Therefore, I either need a player that does both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, or I need two single format players to cover both of those bases.
I also have a huge collection of DVD-Audio and SACD discs. Presently, I use the analog outputs of my Oppo DV-970H to play these discs. But I will go with HDMI to pass DSD and PCM multi-channel audio transport streams to my new receiver. So, I need a PS-3 (to pass DSD) and I can stay with my Oppo to pass the PCM. The Oppo does pass SACD digitally through its HDMI output, but it converts (trans-codes) the DSD to PCM internally and passes the audio as PCM. I want to keep the DSD audio in its native format, to be decoded into analog audio at the last possible place in the chain. I don't want any conversion artifacts.
By the way, the PS-3 is the only player I know of that passes DSD through HDMI for conversion by the receiver or pre/processor. So I can't go with a 'universal' high def video player like the LG or Samsung.
So, I'll go with a PS-3 (for Blu-Ray and SACD), and a Toshiba HD-A35 (for HD-DVD).
I also have three other high definition video sources. I have a DirecTV HD-DVR, and a Verizon FIOS HD-DVR. Both have HDMI outputs. I also have a JVC HM-D30000U D-VHS high def VCR, which has only component outputs.
For the present time, these sources do not have to use HDMI to pass digital audio, because they only have standard PCM or Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio, which can be carried to my receiver via SPDIF.
Until broadcast television goes to Dolby Digital Plus, True-HD or DTS-Master Audio, I can connect one of these sources to my extra HDMI input on my Vizio GV-47L. (That won't happen for years).
I also want a high def disc recorder (when prices for players and media come down). But I don't need an available HDMI output for it. I can record the disc, and play back the disc on my PS-3 or HD-A35. I can use component video to monitor the recorder while it is recording.
From what I've read, the Blu-Ray association has chosen IEEE 1394 (AKA Firewire) to implement managed copy. Of course, even if it is implemented, there are no presently available Blu-Ray players with a Firewire output on them. So copying 1080P video with uncompressed multichannel audio is still a pipe dream. Besides, it doesn't pay to buy a blank disc for the same price as the prerecorded disc you want to copy. Blank media will have to also drop in price before copying makes any sense.
So, I have chosen the Denon 4308ci as my next purchase. It has 4 HDMI inputs, and can accept all high def disc uncompressed audio formats. It also decodes DSD internally.
Three other quick points need to be made about audio and the integration of multiple formats into a system.
There is a way to avoid using HDMI as your audio pathway. You can use analog multichannel outputs. However, if you choose a player that has multichannel analog outputs, you will have to deal with another issue. Even if you get a universal high def disc player to cover both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, it will take up the one analog multichannel analog audio input on your receiver or pre/precessor. That means you can't have an SACD/DVD-Audio player in your system as well.
Second, even when the HDMI streams Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio to your receiver for decoding, you will not be able to use most (and possibly all) of the added features of the disc.
For example, you will be able to hear the uncompressed multichannel soundtrack, but you won't be able to hear it overlaid with the director's commentary. If you want to hear the audio commentary, you will have to do the decoding inside the high def player. It will take the True HD or Master Audio soundtrack, decode it internally, transcode it to uncompressed PCM , overlay the commentary, and pass the PCM through the HDMI output to your receiver.
I doubt any trans-coding artifacts will be audible, but this issue means you have to switch settings (that should require setting one time only) in your receiver and high def player back and forth. That sucks.
Third, it is only a matter of time before Sony Music and Warner start issuing multichannel music only albums on high def discs using Dolby True HD. I saw a video of Dolby corporation's president on another site where he confirmed that both labels were going to do this. He refused to give details, but these discs are definitely coming.
I expected this from Sony all along. They spent a fortune developing SACD, and withdrew it from the market when the new high def disc formats came on the horizon. They have a huge catalog of music they want to resell. They find themselves in another format war. Initially, they had exclusive for Blu Ray content from more studios than HD-DVD. Now Paramount has changed sides.
Adding Sony and Warner music content exclusively to Blu Ray might tip the scales back to them. Imagine a single disc that had two or three albums in 5.1 Dolby True HD for say $25 or $30?. Remember, any sales of back catalog is pure profit. And Sony and Warner Music have already mixed hundreds of titles in 5.1 for DVD-Audio and DVD-Audio. So many titles would simply need to be mastered into Dolby True HD format.
Not that creating more new multichannel album mixes is prohibitively expensive. Just pick the right music and it will sell. DSotM sold well as an SACD. Imagine all of the original Led Zeppelin or Santana albums in 5.1.
I believe that the only thing holding back the music only Dolby True HD multichannel album on Blu Ray is production limitations at this point.
So, it comes down to this....
You have to think input and output of the box!